Rolando Rivera just had to get a taste of the Penn State football experience, so he wedged his 5-foot-11, 300-pound frame into a Greyhound bus seat and prepared for the journey from San Diego.

Rivera, a long-time high school football coach, hates to fly.

So he took the bus to help work Penn State's annual summer football camp last year, bringing his 12-year-old daughter along for the trip.

And three endless days turned into four.

Flooding in the middle of the country was only part of the problem.

"There was a drug bust. It was just crazy," Rivera said. "Every bum, derelict, crack head and convict was on that bus. And the seats were hard and small.


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"But once we got there, it was worth it."

He was a newcomer to the Penn State camp scene, and assistant coaches Larry Johnson and Kermit Buggs and their families made sure to look after him.

Certainly, this is developing into an important connection.

Rivera and buddy Scott Glasson know the Southern California high school football scene as well as anyone and run a Web site called, www.sandiegoballers.com, in which they put together highlight clips of local players.

Consider that California has a glut of Division I-A prospects and few in-state schools to give them scholarships. And San Diego, which is opening new high schools all time, is an untapped recruiting area compared to Los Angeles, 90 minutes north.

"We've got players, and not all of them can go to USC," Rivera said.

That's where Penn State comes in.

Rivera and Glasson, an Altoona native, know college coaches all over the country and have helped San Diego players recently end up at Villanova and Seton Hill in Greensburg.

Meanwhile, Penn State has decided to start working the area, too, making a big push last year for San Diego quarterback Tate Forcier, who ended up at Michigan.

Buggs is the Nittany Lions' point man in Southern California, meaning he is the lead on evaluating potential scholarship offers there -- players good enough on the field and in the classroom and who are willing to play across the country.

Rivera and Glasson -- who claim to know "every player south of L.A." -- steer him and other coaches to prospects. And Penn State, because of its tradition, facilities, huge crowds and recent success, is an immediate player of interest, even to California kids.

At least now that its staff is putting time into the area.

"Penn State's real slow. They didn't just talk to us right away," Glasson said. "They're real careful about everything they do, absurdly so.

"When people say they're clean, it's true."

So far, the Lions have offered San Diego stud receiver Kenny Stills, who plans on visiting State College on a recruiting trip. And apparently they are seriously interested in a handful of other kids there. They also have offered Long Beach area's Sean Parker, one of the nation's top safety prospects.

"If they can get out here and keep meeting kids, I think they can really pull in some great ones," Glasson said of the Penn State coaches.

Maybe it will happen this year.

Maybe not until next year.

But it will.

And it could be one of the more important recruiting relationships Penn State has developed in a long time.
Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at 771-2104 or fbodani@ydr.com