It’s Cristian Driver‘s birthday, but this year, it also marked a major step forward in the next chapter of his family’s life.

Driver, a Rivals250 athlete out of Argyle (Texas) LIberty Christian in Dallas, went public with his commitment to Penn State. Over the course of his recruitment, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, LSU and Wisconsin were among the major contenders for Driver’s commitment.

Penn State head coach James Franklin coached Driver’s father, NFL Pro Bowl wide receiver Donald Driver when the two were together in Green Bay in 2005. He’s been a member of Cristian’s extended family ever since.

Driver had been eyeing a fit in Happy Valley when he began reeling in offers as an impact freshman at Liberty Christian. After finally taking in the sights and sounds during his June official visit, his mind was made up.

“This is where I wanted to be,” Driver told Rival on Thursday. “This has been a dream school since my freshman year and I’ve wanted to get up on campus since then. The official visit was everything I expected and even better. It completely blew me away. We were up there and I fell in love with everything and my parents fell in love with the campus.”

“It was amazing,” he affirmed.

Franklin coached Dad, who left this decision entirely up to his son.

Driver was impressed by Franklin from the jump — and it was largely unrelated to football. The four-star athlete recalls conversations with his father about Franklin’s mentorship and his attention to details away from the field about team building.

That was the environment Driver coveted.

“From my dad’s standpoint, he was grateful for Coach Franklin and the man he is and he knew I’d be taken care of off the field and in the program, in the brotherhood and bond they’ve built and they have there. Coach Franklin does a well-rounded job with his players and pouring into them as players, teaching them about the Lord, about being a man and how to do things on and off the field.

“With head football coaches, you get some different personalities. There are those types of coaches who are distant from the players and some that do and don’t usually like to build bonds. At Penn State, with Coach Franklin and his staff, you have those types of coaches. They do a phenomenal job pouring into the players and making them a part of the program. That’s what makes Penn State so great.”

On the football side of things, there’s only one coach to look at.

As a quarterbacks coach at Ohio State, Mike Yurcich was the first to offer Driver, as a freshman, to play wide receiver. Yurcich continued court Driver on the offensive side of the ball when he was Tom Herman’s offensive coordinator at Texas last year even while the majority of coaches across the country courted Driver to play safety.

Once Yurcich landed at Penn State, momentum grew. Driver noted that one of the highlights of his official visit in Happy Valley was talking Xs and Os with his future play-caller.

“Coach Yurcich is my guy,” Driver said of the Nittany Lions’ offensive coordinator, who first offered him as a freshman at Liberty Christian back in 2018 as a member of the Buckeyes’ staff. “He came to my school and was the first to offer me as a receiver. He watched me run routes and get out of my breaks. We talked alignments and about reading defensive back’s feet, the stuff my dad taught me and instilled in me.

“My heart wasn’t with Ohio State; it was with Coach Yurcich. Wherever he was going, I was looking at also. He believed in me. He saw it in me more than a lot of other coaches. He sees me playing both sides of the ball, how versatile I am and how I can play different positions. It’s perfect now and everything worked out the right way.”

This year, Driver’s birthday also represents the end of a long-winding recruitment that took off early on in his time at high school and concludes as he dives into preparation for his senior year. The Penn State pledge represents not only a future on the football field, but a chance to honor his family with a degree, another reason to celebrate on this day.

“Being my birthday, it’s a special day for me and something that’ll make it more special by committing to a school I’ve dreamed of playing at since my freshman year,” Driver smiled. “Today feels like a special day. It’s unreal. I’m one kid in the family who will go to college with a chance to graduate and get a degree. It’s big for me and pretty big on my family, for everyone. So is having the change to put that hat on and make my mom and dad proud.”

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