Report: Cairo’s Bench headed to Penn State

Steven Bench verbally committed to Rice in December but is now switching to Penn State.

Steven Bench verbally committed to Rice in December but is now switching to Penn State.

CAIRO — Multiple reports Tuesday had Cairo star QB Steven Bench, who stunningly left Bainbridge High for the Bearcats’ neighboring rival after spring practice last offseason, switching his college commitment from Rice to Penn State.

Bench, who verbally committed to the Owls in December, did an about-face Tuesday when he told ESPN.com that when Penn State started calling recently, he started listening.

“What people don’t realize is that Penn State is a really good academic school,” Bench said. “It’s better than most people think. Academically Penn State is a top tier school like Rice. A Penn State education is nothing to sneeze at. So I can get an education like that and play college football at the highest level. I can’t go wrong. It’s going to be a great experience for me. I plan on working hard and earning my time.”

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound signal caller had a solid senior season for the Syrupmakers, whom he led all the way to the GHSA Class AAA Final Four.

“It was a really tough decision, but I felt like Penn State was the right choice for me,” Bench told the AJC. “The school was amazing, the facilities were amazing, and the thing that really stood out there during my visit was the school pride. Everybody loves it there. It’s hard to find a place where 44,000 people like the school they go to.”

Bench, who also garnered interest from Mississippi State and Georgia, said he considered all the turmoil Penn State has been involved in recently — the ongoing child-abuse sex scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky; the firing of long-time coach Joe Paterno, who died Sunday; and the seemingly endless wave of players decommiting and transferring from the school in the wake of it all — before making his decision.

“I’ve done my homework on stuff like that,” Bench told the AJC. “It was just a bad situation. At the same time, it’s over. “