While most Penn football freshmen don't play on game days, they are key to the to future success of the program, and undergo a rigorous recruiting process during high school.
For some freshmen, the dedication, high standards, and intensity driving the Quakers' success is familiar territory. Freshman offensive lineman Jake Bingham came to Penn fresh off a Mid-Atlantic Prep League title at The Hun School.
When it came time for the recruiting process and balancing the highs and lows of it all, Bingham sought to find a place with a similar culture to that of his New Jersey-based high school. It didn't take him long to realize that Penn offered the best fit.
“I think a lot of times during the recruiting process, people told me that coaches would tell you what you want to hear,” Bingham said. “For me, it was the opposite experience. [Penn] coaches were genuinely honest and supportive.”
As Penn's season has progressed, Bingham's choice has been affirmed — he enjoys the feeling of family he shares with his coaches, and has grown to appreciate the challenge that college football offers.
Adjusting to the rigors of the college game has been a common theme for Penn's freshman class. Freshman quarterback Liam O'Brien, who played his high school football at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, echoed Bingham's appreciation for the challenge of Ancient Eight football.
“Mentally, I feel like the college game takes another step,” O’Brien said. “It's a lot more serious in a good way.”
O’Brien is particularly grateful to be immersed in an environment where teammates push each other to thrive on the field and where coaches mentor players to succeed both athletically and academically. Another player that has enjoyed learning from veteran teammates is freshman defensive lineman Brady Ioannidis.
Despite the Red and Blue’s diversity in players’ skill sets and football journeys, Ioannidis loves how he and his Penn teammates are similar in both their goals and drive. The Ontario native has developed a bond with senior lineman and 2021 honorable mention All-Ivy honoree Jake Heimlicher.
“Jake Heimlicher has been a guy who has taken me under his wing. I've been learning a lot from him,” Ioannidis said.
In addition to the support he’s received from teammates, a combination of Penn’s elite coaching staff and competitive culture has enabled Ioannidis to transform his placement technique and knowledge of the game's nuances since entering training camp.
As a student of the game, moments like entering Penn’s film room to dissect Stanford versus Colgate before the Quakers' first matchup of the season felt surreal for Ioannidis.
Following the Quakers' loss to Brown, the team has three more games in its season. Those three games will be three more opportunities for freshmen like Jake Bingham, Liam O’Brien, and Brady Ioannidis to grow as players and embrace the experience of playing the Ivy League.