WALDWICK, N.J. – Though some Penn State fans are looking ahead to this April’s NFL draft and wondering if there will be any Nittany Lions selected in the first round, it turns out that the school has already produced one first-rounder this year.
Corey Hertzog was taken in the first round of January’s MLS SuperDraft by the New York Red Bulls.
“I’m really proud to be a part of this team and to represent Penn State now at the MLS level,” Hertzog told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s an honor. I hope more will follow me to MLS.”
Hertzog is one of the most accomplished strikers to ever don Penn State's blue and white. In 2010 he led the NCAA in goals (20), points (46) and points-per-game (2.09).
However, now he's tasked with making an impression on the Red Bulls coaching staff, and it appears he's done just that: Backe recently singled out Hertzog as a pleasant surprise during the recent trip to Mexico.
But that doesn't mean Hertzog has found it easy to adjust to the pace of the professional game.
“The speed of play is so much faster than in college; it is really fast out there,” Hertzog said. “It is also a lot more physical too, so I need to adjust to all that very quickly so that I don’t fall behind.”
Hertzog, though, joins a pretty good situation.
The Red Bulls made a worst-to-first turnaround in 2010, finishing the regular season first in the Eastern Conference. As such, there is good depth on the roster, which should allow Hertzog to develop and acclimate to the professional game.
He will also get a chance to play alongside one of the most storied strikers of his generation, Thierry Henry, who at 33 years old is still very much in his prime.
Though Hertzog admits he was at first somewhat intimidated by Henry, he said he's already learning from a striker who has played for two of the most celebrated teams in the world: Arsenal and Barcelona.
“I mean, to be in college a year ago and maybe thinking about playing professionally to being here now with the Red Bulls, training and getting ready for the season and to be playing alongside someone like a Thierry Henry — watching him play and how he moves — it is incredible,” Hertzog said.
With such a deep veteran team, there isn’t much pressure on Hertzog to perform right now. In fact, he just wants to take his time and learn and be ready when called upon.
“I just want to prepare myself as best I can, be ready every day,” Hertzog said. “It’s been great so far.”