Derrick Tangelo discusses his decision to transfer to Penn State
Penn State added its third transfer Tuesday when former Duke defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo announced that he’d be coming to State College for one final season of college football.
An under-recruited prospect coming out of high school, Tangelo only had a handful of Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offers when he finished his time at the Bullis School in Potomac, Md. Navy, Temple and Wake Forest all made the move, but it was ultimately David Cutcliffe and the staff at Duke that earned his signature.
“Duke was an incredible opportunity for me and I loved my time there,” Tangelo said. “You'll never hear me say anything negative about their team or their coaches, but I just felt like Penn State was too big of an opportunity to pass up. Playing in front of 107,000 people is incredible. They're ranked every year. The Big Ten is a very competitive conference, although so is the ACC. But I just wanted to test myself and see how I stacked up against different competition and I felt like this was the right move for me.”
Tangelo, who totaled more than 100 tackles over the past four season at Duke, said that he also considered going to the NFL, but in the end, he thought that one more season of college football, especially at a new school against new competition, would help him.
“I was definitely thinking about potentially going to the NFL this year,” Tangelo said. “I was just trying to weigh my options, and that's why I got into the portal so late. But I would say that it wasn't really a hard process for me. For me, it was just about making sure that everything was lining up before I made my decision. That's really all it was. It was my first time with this, so even little things like learning about the portal, all of that was new.
"But I would say that it wasn't really a hard choice. I've always been fond of Penn State as a program. That was my dream school coming out of high school, so once the opportunity presented itself, I kind of jumped at it. I wanted an opportunity to make a dream come true.”
Back in 2015, Tangelo actually visited Penn State, attending a game against Indiana. He said that visit had a major impact on his interest in the football program.
“Penn State was one of my first college visits. I went with one of my best friends from high school, so getting to see that environment, just being there, you know, that sticks with you," Tangelo said. "Then, the hospitality they showed, talking to Coach Franklin, all of that was something I never forgot about. That makes this a real dream come true for me.”
It also helped that his coaches at the Bullis School have become close with James Franklin and his staff over the years. In addition to signing quarterback Christian Veilleux this year, kicker Gabe Nwosu plans to walk-on in 2021. Tight end Jonathan Holland and linebacker Cam Brown also came out of that program. In fact, both played with Tangelo in 2015.
“My coaches from high school have a real good relationship with their coaches, and I still have a good relationship with my high school coaches, so once I did decide, it was easy to get in touch with [Penn State] and get that moving. We got a lot of people that went to Penn State from Bullis, so that helped," he said. "So, just having that open line of communication, on both sides, made it pretty easy. In the end, we were really just looking for each other. I’m happy with how it worked out.”
Tangelo was also recruited by Tyler Bowen, who was at Fordham at the time, coming out of high school. Because of that, Bowen led Tangelo’s brief recruitment.
“I knew Coach Bowen from Fordham, so he recruited me a lot in high school,” he said. “We developed a relationship there, and then he hit me up at Penn State, just saying that he followed my career at Duke and that he liked what I did, all nice things. Once that happened, everything kind of fell into motion. Also, just talking to Coach Franklin, everything kind of flowed. It was always easy to talk with them. It felt like we were always on the same page, so we didn't really have that many Zoom calls or anything. It was good from the start.”
Michigan was the other school that pushed for Tangelo, but he said the Wolverines were never a serious option.
“I was talking to Michigan, but honestly, I already felt like I was planning to go to Penn State. I thought it was the right thing to talk to them and hear what they had to say. You have to respect Michigan. It's a great program. They have great coaches and great tradition, so I would be remiss if I didn't hear them out, but I kind of felt like I was going to Penn State the entire time. At the end of the day, it was really between Penn State and the NFL. That was the decision I had to make, and once I knew Penn State was interested, that's what I really wanted to do.”
Tangelo will essentially replace Antonio Shelton, who announced last week that he plans to play his final season elsewhere. He was one of the top-ranked defensive tackles in the ACC the past few years, according to Pro Football Focus. Tangelo ranked 10th out of 63 defensive tackles in 2018, 16th out of 61 in 2019, and 5th out 58 in 2020.
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