Luca Puccinelli was impressed, to say the least.
Three autumns ago, Puccinelli sat on his couch at his home in Glen Allen, Virginia—north of Richmond—and turned on Penn State-Michigan.
It was Penn State’s annual ‘White Out,’ and Puccinelli, then a freshman in high school, said the site of thousands upon thousands of fans decked out in white “blew my mind.”
“Is anything else like that, really?” Puccinelli, who will begin his junior year at Benedictine High School in Richmond this month, told Nittany Sports Now. “I mean, the White Out? Crazy. It’s crazy.”
Watching a White Out game on TV is enough to impress.
Seeing one in person is even better.
But playing in one? Well, that’s the stuff young football players dream about.
Puccinelli, now a three-star, 6-foot-6, 235-pound tight end, still has a long way to go to reach that dream.
He’s done well for himself, becoming a three-star recruit with eight Division I offers, from schools such as Duke, East Carolina, Liberty, South Carolina and Virginia Tech. Penn State isn’t on the list yet, and Puccinelli hopes that will change by the end of this weekend’s Lasch Bash.
When asked about the possibility of an offer from Penn State, Puccinelli’s face lit up like a Christmas Tree.
“It gets me pumped,” Puccinelli said, “knowing that I could walk away… if I do good at that minicamp. If I have a good time. If I do good that whole weekend, that I could walk away with an offer from a school like Penn State.”
Puccinelli plans on beginning the roughly four-and-a-half-hour trip to Happy Valley late Friday morning– leaving with his parents, Luke and Kristin, and little brother, Ralphie– then getting things started Saturday morning with Penn State’s mini-camp. Puccinelli is excited about continuing his relationship with Penn State tight ends coach Ty Howle, as well as getting to know some of the team’s other coaches, especially head man James Franklin.
Puccinelli also looks forward to talking with some of Penn State’s commits and asking them what made them choose Penn State.
“I’m really excited to just talk with some commits, see why they committed,” he said. “I mean, there are so many options, especially for (players with offers from) Penn State. If you’re getting recruited to Penn State, there’s definitely plenty of options you have. So (I want to ask them) ‘why did you choose Penn State?’ and what they liked about it.”
Since the two met at a camp last summer, Puccinelli has begun to develop a bond with Howle through phone conversations over the past year.
“I like coach Howle a lot,” Puccinelli said, “just from our talks on the calls.
Puccinelli described Howle as a “family man.”
“Every time I’ve talked to him, he’s always asking me about my family,” he said. “I have a really big family, so I’m definitely looking for a place that’s welcoming to me and my family. So there’s that. He’s a family man. He’s always talking about his wife and kid, so I mean, I really like that.”
Puccinelli added that Howle is a “personable guy.”
“He remembers things that I tell him on calls in future calls, and he’s a well-experienced coach,” he said.
So, what type of player is Puccinelli?
He has solid size for a tight end and can catch the ball when he needs to. But Puccinelli takes pride in his blocking ability as a tight end.
“Everybody sees, like, George Kittle, and Travis Kelce and the route running stuff,” Puccinelli said. “I think it’s really overlooked, the tight end’s blocking ability. So I’m really confident in my blocking ability.”
Penn State has had success putting tight ends in the NFL in recent years, with Mike Gesicki about to enter his fifth season with the Miami Dolphins and Pat Freiermuth impressing as a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers last year. The success of past Penn State tight ends, particularly Gesicki and Freiermuth, excites Puccinelli about the possibility of one day following in that lineage.
“Just knowing that they went to Penn State and that I could be potentially walking in their same shoes,” Puccinelli said. “It just means a lot, you know?”
With Benedictine’s training camp starting Monday, Puccinelli is excited about his first season as an upperclassman, and an offer from Penn State at the end of July will certainly set a positive tone.
“I’m psyched for the season,” he said. “Just everything about it is lined up so perfectly, with recruiting and my skills, finally getting used to my body. I’m psyched. Words can’t describe how excited I am.”