UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Senior Ty Howle has shaggy brown hair and an easy-going personality that allows him to quickly transition between subjects like football -- he likely will be Penn State's starting center this fall -- and everything else. He was one of the main organizers for the Lift for Life charity event this year and likes fishing and other outdoor activities.
And then without anybody pressing him, he'll talk about his old injury, the one that stalled his junior season last year, keeping him in rehab from July until the fourth week of the season.
He'll even show you the scar. On the upper corner of the left side of his chest, a red gash still circles around where his shoulder begins.
"Freak accident," Howle said.
Howle, from Wake Forest, N.C., was on his final set of bench presses in a workout. He needed to complete five repetitions at what he termed "pretty heavy weights." On his first rep, he said he felt something pop. He had torn his pectoral muscle. For a month and a half, he needed a sling and couldn't run. After rehab, he finally was ready to return in the fourth week of the season. By week seven, he was playing as a key reserve at guard and getting reps at center on field goals and extra points.
In a way, he was Penn State's well-kept secret. His teammates often raved about him, and the praise continued into the spring and this summer.
"He's a workhorse," senior tackle Adam Gress said. "He puts in the time he needs to put in. It obviously showed up as a good result when he came into the spring ready to play."
Penn State needs Howle to replace center Matt Stankiewitch, who was named to the all-Big Ten first team and signed a free-agent contract with the New England Patriots.
"We lost Matt Stankiewitch, but I'd say our center Ty Howle has done a great job in spring ball just taking his game to another level," guard John Urschel said in April. "I don't think we're going to miss a beat at that position. ... I can talk about Ty all day. I think he's -- if you ask me -- one of the most underrated players on our team."
As much as he has prepared for it, Howle's role will be a new experience. Though he played every game as a sophomore and freshman, he was primarily a reserve
He said he is trying to approach this season the same way. Howle doesn't want to change anything. He's just ready and injury free and excited about a group he believes could develop into a formidable offensive line.
"We have a lot of potential," he said. "We have a lot of great guys. We have a lot of good depth ... it all depends on our cohesion."
NOTE -- The Penn State football team had the 11th annual Lift for Life Friday, an event that raises money for kidney cancer. Before the event, which is expected to bring in several thousand dollars, Gress said the team had raised approximately $112,000 this year for the Kidney Cancer Association. Final totals weren't available Friday, but the team raised approximately $117,000 last year.
Mark Dent: email@example.com, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05