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Penn State quarterback Tommy Stevens wanted to wait as long as possible before deciding to play for another school this fall, his family said.
“Sometimes a fresh start will do you some good. We felt a change of scenery is best for Tommy at this point,” his father, Tom Stevens, said on Thursday.
“Other things that go into that decision … we believe things like this should be handled in the locker room.”
News that Tommy Stevens entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal hit on Wednesday. That meant he was at least looking at possibilities of leaving Penn State before the beginning of his fifth and final year at the school.
The portal gives players the ability to seek transfer landing spots without needing the consent of their current school. Since Stevens already has earned his undergraduate degree, he is eligible immediately at whatever new program he chooses.
Two Penn State players who entered the portal this winter, cornerback Lamont Wade and receiver Cam Sullivan-Brown, decided to pull back and stay with the Nittany Lions.
Stevens, who seemed determined to take over the starting quarterback spot in 2019, will not stay, his father said.
Tom Stevens is a high school football coach in their home state of Indiana. He served as family spokesperson, saying his son’s decision to leave Penn State, especially now, was immensely difficult.
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Though he did not want to divulge details yet, Tom Stevens said the relationship between his son and the Penn State coaching staff deteriorated gradually and that Tommy does not feel comfortable pushing on for the starting spot.
The competition with redshirt sophomore QB Sean Clifford and redshirt freshman Will Levis has nothing to do with his decision to leave, Tom Stevens said.
“Tommy still believes he’s good enough to be a starter at a major college football program, to be a Penn State starter,” his father said. “It just got to the point where we couldn’t afford to wait and Penn State must do what’s best for Penn State, and there’s no hard feelings.
“Tommy feels there comes a time where he has to do what’s best for him.”
With only one year of college eligibility remaining, “we couldn’t afford to wait until August” to find out if he’ll be the starter, Tom Stevens said.
Stevens’ decision to come to State College was not easy in the first place.
He committed first to the home state Hoosiers before receiving bigger attention from places like Notre Dame, Michigan State and Penn State.
Coach James Franklin and a shallow depth chart helped win him over. He enrolled early in the winter of 2015 and his family drove eight hours to support him shortly after at Penn State’s public “signing day” event in Rec Hall.
He redshirted his first season behind Christian Hackenberg and Trace McSorley and then lost a reported close competition with McSorley for the starting spot in preseason camp in 2016.
McSorley went on to be a record-setter over the next three years. Steven was the top backup and got intriguing experience as a do-everything weapon running, catching and throwing passes — sometimes all in the same game.
But last year did not go particularly well and some of the details are still a mystery. Stevens appeared to be recovered from an undisclosed lower leg injury during the summer but was wearing a walking boot by the end of camp.
He missed the first four games of 2018 and then played sparingly the rest of the way. He was switched back and forth with McSorley in the big loss at Michigan, almost strangely so.
Later, Franklin admitted that Stevens played the entire fall in substantial pain from the previous injury that was aggravated or would not heal properly.
He underwent surgery and missed the bowl game. Throughout the winter and into the spring, Stevens’ parents suggested he would stay at Penn State unless he outright lost the starting spot.
Stevens reiterated that thinking and continued pledging his support of Penn State during spring practice.
Franklin declined to name a starter after the Blue-White Game last Saturday, calling for the need for a more true competition. Stevens was limited in workouts as he recovered from that December surgery.
“Nothing is given to you. He didn’t expect anything to be given to him,” Tom Stevens said.
But, “There’s been some things done and said over the past few years that rubbed us the wrong way and we felt we had to make a decision now. There’s been some things going on that everybody doesn’t know about.
“We wanted this thing to work at Penn State so badly and hoped it would turn out the way they wanted.”
Tom Stevens said his son has no strong leads yet as to his transfer destination. A few schools have contacted him in the past 24 hours, but he declined to name them.
Tommy Stevens and his family are still big Penn State supporters, his father saying they would be forever grateful for his education and all of the opportunities and relationships made.
‘We don’t want anybody to look bad,” Tom Stevens said. “Tommy did everything he could to be the perfect team player, but now he has to make the selfish decision.
“He knows he’s going to be OK. He just wants to play football. This is another hill for him to get over and he’ll get over it. He’s a tough kid …”