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December 23, 2012
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It has been a whirlwind year for Florida State tight end Kevin Haplea. Even with the school semester over, the junior from Annandale, N.J. still hasn't had a chance to fully catch his breath yet.
Perhaps after the Orange Bowl he'll finally get that chance.
After the NCAA handed down crushing sanctions to the Penn State football program in July, including a four-year bowl ban, Haplea decided he wanted to finish his career elsewhere.
One of his first calls he made was to FSU offensive coordinator and tight end's coach James Coley. Haplea was recruited by Coley out of high school and also had a good relationship with head coach Jimbo Fisher.
"It was really fast," Haplea said when speaking to the media for the first time since transferring. "I had to kind of just go mull things over in my head quickly and I was just thinking of coaches I knew from recruiting... I knew Coach Fisher and Coach Coley were both still here and I had a great relationship with both of them when I got recruited.
"I got my NCAA permission to go talk with other schools. Gave Coach Coley a call just kind of feeling things out. He was really excited about it and was just on the horn back and forth with him and Coach Fisher, just trying to see where everything was. The situation worked good when it presented itself and I just thought it was the best move for me."
Once the NCAA sanctions were released following the fallout of the child sex abuse scandal involving former PSU defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, Nittany Lion players essentially became free agents. Haplea said it "was pretty crazy" how many coaches tried to contact the guys.
Haplea admitted it was hard leaving behind so many good friends at Penn State, but he's still proud of how the team held together during one of the most scrutinized scandals a college program has ever faced.
"That whole period in between with all the onslaught of this coming out, that coming out, we were really able to stay together because we knew that we weren't involved or had anything to do with it," he said. "We weren't really concerned, we just went out there and played and finished the season and had a pretty good year."
Rated a three-star prospect out of North Hunterdon High School in New Jersey, Haplea signed with Penn State. In his first two seasons the 6-foot-4, 252-pounder specialized mostly as a blocking tight end, but did have six catches for 60 yards and touchdown in Happy Valley.
When he arrived in Tallahassee, Haplea was in town for less than 24 hours before attending his first practice. After making a whirlwind decision, Haplea immersed himself in Fisher's playbook during fall camp before school started.
"I didn't really get a chance to experience much of being in Tallahassee, because all I was doing was waking up and coming (to the athletic center) and then going back home to sleep after practice was over," Haplea said. "Once school started, that was like when I got the real feel of what it's like at Florida State. It's been great, it's awesome down here."
Fisher joked that Haplea wasn't taught to swim, he was just thrown in the water and told to survive. He said he couldn't have asked more of Haplea, who appeared in all 13 games this season, caught three passes for 15 yards, including a one-yard touchdown against South Florida.
"He's done a great job this year," Fisher said. "Actually caught a touchdown in a game, played well, is a great player, good hard-nosed guy, great addition to our team and we're very happy to have him."
Haplea said he's looking forward to having a full set of spring practices and a summer to really learn the ins and outs of the offense.
"I've definitely made progress everyday since I've been here," he said. "I'm pretty happy with how I've come along. The spring will be really big for me just to get that extra time with the playbook and with the guys."
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