STATE COLLEGE — Growing up in a family full of Nittany Lion fans, Dylan Farronato attended plenty of Penn State football games throughout his life.
But last season, he was no longer waiting in line with a ticket to get into Beaver Stadium during pregame — he was on the field warming up as a member of his favorite college football team.
“Playing at Penn State has always been a big dream of mine since I was a little kid, and now I’m getting the chance to live it out,” Farronato said. “During the summer last year, I remember having conversations with my father and saying it didn’t feel real, and it really didn’t hit me until we were running out of the (locker room) tunnel last year during the first game.”
He added that one of the most surreal experiences last year was being inside Beaver Stadium for his first ‘White Out’ experience as a player and hearing the fans go crazy after Michigan was forced to call a timeout on its first offensive play of the game because the noise prohibited them from getting the snap off in time.
Farronato, a Lewisburg graduate who grew up in Coal Township and Denmar Gardens prior to high school, was originally committed to play at Davidson University heading into his senior year of high school. But about midway through the football season, he was invited to come to a PSU home game by defensive backs coach Tim Banks. Following the game, he talked to head coach James Franklin, who offered him an opportunity to join the team as a preferred walk-on the following season.
“It took some time to think it over and consider my options. I was committed to Davidson for about three months up to that point, but I ended up accepting the offer about a week or two after the visit,” he said.
Now the 5-11, 194-pound safety will be entering his second year as a redshirt freshman, and he’s had some time to look back on his first collegiate season. During his redshirt season, he dressed for every home game and traveled to the Cotton Bowl, which is now played in Arlington, Texas, at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
The unique experience of traveling with the team to play in the Cotton Bowl, which the Nittany Lions won 53-39 over Memphis, was one of the most surreal experiences for Farronato.
“That was a crazy experience. Being able to play in the Cowboys stadium, practice where they do and run out onto the same field that they do every Sunday was really cool,” Farronato said.
As is the case with playing at the next level in any sport, there were some adjustments he had to make.
“One of the biggest (adjustments) is that everyone here was one of the best players on their high school team as a senior, and that’s not the case during your freshman year,” he said. “Knowing you’re not at the top of the food chain again, everything becomes a competition and a chance to prove yourself.”
Other adjustments he has been making are things such as adjusting to the speed of the game, making quicker reads in the secondary and learning time management skills, which was made easier with the help of coaches who focus on helping players with academics.
Farronato’s goal for the upcoming season is to find a role on the team that would allow him to get on the field in any way and contribute to the team.
“The goal is always to get as much playing time as possible and as soon as possible. Whether that would be on special teams or a place on defense, whatever it is, I’m willing to do it,” he said.
Penn State’s first day of camp was Friday, and Farronato has been looking forward to getting the chance to get back to work with his teammates.
“It’s going to be nice to put pads back on for the first time since last year and be a football player again. It’ll be a getaway from everything that’s going on in the world, too, for sure,” he said.