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Justin Brown of Half Hollow Hills West makes football recruiting visit to Penn State

Justin Brown of Half Hollow Hills West rushes

Justin Brown of Half Hollow Hills West rushes for a gain during the Long Island Class III championship game against Plainedge at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead on Nov. 24, 2018. Credit: James Escher

Penn State could become an option for Justin Brown, the Newsday All-Long Island senior football player at Half Hollow Hills West.

The running back/defensive back was on an unofficial recruiting visit this past weekend in State College, stayed over, attended the Nittany Lions’ win over Buffalo on Saturday night and spoke with head coach James Franklin following the game. Hills West coach Gerald Filardi said all NCAA rules were followed for the visit.

“There is interest there – and it goes in both directions – but I couldn’t tell you how intense it is and what it will become,” Filardi said.  “He already has one great opportunity; maybe he will have another. It’s too soon to know.”

Brown said he made a verbal commitment in eighth grade to accept a lacrosse scholarship at Michigan and he has remained steadfast to it, even as his star has risen on the gridiron and major college programs have tried to court him. In recent months, UConn, Syracuse, Boston College and Stony Brook – among others – have shown interest.

Penn State football, however, is a draw with enormous gravitas in Brown’s life and an offer from the Nittany Lions might have the potential to change the complexion of his recruiting picture. Jerry Brown, Justin’s father, was a star running back for Hills West, was recruited to Penn State (though he couldn’t go because of his grades) and remains loyal to the program. He recently told Newsday “[Justin] was always wearing Penn State [gear] and it was his dream, so no doors are closed though they’d have to be [pried] open.”

And Filardi is a Penn State alum who walked on for football, became an all-conference player and then played in the NFL. He, too, was at Penn State this past weekend for the 25th anniversary celebration of the undefeated 1994 team that he was on.

Brown is a 6-foot, 180-pound speedster who piled up 1,365 yards rushing and scored 17 touchdowns last season as the Colts captured the Long Island Class III championship. He also received the Suffolk coaches' Cipp Award as the county's top running back.

“If he’s playing college lacrosse, he’ll do it at Michigan,” Filardi said. “Is there potential for something there [at Penn State] if he decided to play football? There might be. ... Time will tell.”

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