2-time PIAA gold medalist, Conemaugh Township senior Ethan Black commits to Penn State football team as preferred walk-on

Jan. 25—Ethan Black grew up idolizing Penn State University's future NFL players such as Saquon Barkley, Trace McSorley and K.J. Hamler.

Perhaps it was only natural that the Conemaugh Township Area standout figuratively ran with the Nittany Lions' offer to give Black preferred walk-on status as a wide receiver. Black announced his commitment to coach James Franklin's Nittany Lions on Twitter on Wednesday.

"Penn State always has been that dream of mine ever since I was little," said Black, a PIAA double gold-medal winner as a track and field sprinter in 2022. "It came down to talking to my family about the decision. We decided that this would be where I fit in the best and be the happiest."

A four-year starter on the Conemaugh Township football team under coach Tony Penna Jr., Black ranked second in the area with 56 catches for 884 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. The speedster added 39 carries for 218 yards and three scores in 2022.

The 5-foot-11, 160-pound wide receiver's career numbers included 106 receptions for 1,810 yards and 25 TDs. He added four interceptions in 2022.

His success on the track really opened opportunities for Black, who as a junior won the PIAA Class 2A championship in both the 100- (10.78) and 200-meter dashes (21.45).

The son of Gary and Leisha Black, Ethan Black said the plan is to focus solely on football and his studies in pre-medicine at Penn State.

"My love for the sport brought me to the decision," Black said of choosing football. "It's my college that I supported forever. Track, using my speed to get my name out there is really what led to everything happening."

Penna, who recently stepped down as Conemaugh Township's coach, said Black has the potential to develop and build on his already impressive athletic skills as part of a successful Big Ten program.

"A kid like that who is a three-sport athlete, as dynamic of an athlete as he is, when he gets there and you match his work ethic with the kind of training he's going to get at Penn State, it could be scary where he ends up," Penna said.

"He started for us as a freshman. His speed just separates him," Penna added. "That elite speed makes all the difference in the world. Matched with his work ethic, I think he's going to earn himself a shot to make an impact at Penn State."

Black, a 2022 Tribune-Democrat all-area first-team football selection, also considered Dartmouth on a football scholarship. He is the first wide receiver to commit to Penn State since new coach Marques Hagans was hired on Monday.