Phil Taylor's high school coach said the player who starred for his team was a "great student, great kid," and Chris Bell's high school coach also had high words of praise for the former standout.
Now, the two are wondering what happened to the players they coached.
Bell, a sophomore wide receiver, and Taylor, a sophomore defensive tackle, have been temporarily suspended from the Penn State football team "until their academic situation improves and any off-the-field issues are behind them," according to a statement released Friday afternoon by Penn State sports information director Jeff Nelson.
Bell and Taylor become the fourth and fifth players removed this semester and the sixth this academic year.
According to court documents, Bell and Taylor were involved in an Oct. 7 fight at the HUB-Robeson Center, but neither player is facing criminal charges. Still, Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira said it is possible additional charges could be filed.
"You've got to pick your spots to be in," said Dan Hayes, Taylor's high school football coach in Clinton, Md. "You've gotta pick and choose your places to be in. If you go to a party, you know what can happen. If you go to a liquor store, you know what can happen. If you go to church, you know what can happen. So take your choice."
Taylor's father, Phil, said Taylor's mother drove Friday to speak with Joe Paterno, although he added the Taylors were asked not to discuss the meeting.
Taylor's father also said he was under the impression the suspension was as a result of the fight. Asked about any academic issues, Taylor's dad said, "that's the first I've heard that."
Taylor also said his son was "handling [the suspension] OK."
Both players have been in and out of Paterno's doghouse. Paterno suspended the players for the Oct. 13 game at Wisconsin, and Bell played sparingly the rest of the season.
"Once you get that scholarship or what have you, everybody's after you," Hayes said. "Little things can happen in the mall or anything ... The scholarship can quickly get taken because of stupid stuff."
Bell's coach at Granby High School in Norfolk, Va., Dave Hudak, said he spoke with Bell a few months ago, and Bell seemed more mature than when he graduated.
"I've been coaching a long time, and I've had a lot of guys go away," Hudak said. "Usually, you can tell. There would have been some signs where I would have been waiting for a phone call like this. There were none at all."
Bell met Hudak as an eighth-grader. Hudak said Bell, who seems to have a "wild side like most kids down here," never missed a football game or track meet because of academics.
"He didn't have the highest marks in the classes, but he always had his head well above water," Hudak said. "There were some classes harder than others, but he was always there."
Although Taylor and Bell have not been charged in connection with the fight at the HUB, witnesses have said the two were involved, according to police reports.
Witness Tracy Hoffmaster, a custodian at the HUB, told police one player climbed onto a chair and jumped onto victim Varney Capehart, driving an elbow into his face. Witnesses identified the player as Bell.
Penn State defensive tackle Chris Baker, who is facing felony assault charges in connection with the incident, told police Taylor kicked Capehart while he was on the floor and later "sucker punched" Capehart, according to court documents.
Reserve linebacker Navorro Bowman is also awaiting trial on felony assault charges in connection with the fight. Baker and Bowman were kicked off the team last month, as was reserve defensive back Knowledge Timmons.
All five players could return to the team, but their status remains in limbo.
Until their standing with Paterno is resolved, Hayes said he hopes Taylor reverts back to the player he coached.
"As kids, you're not going to one or two parties in your lifetime," Hayes said. "I guess they picked the wrong party to go to."