STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WHTM) — Penn State’s defense is still the top ranked team in the country in total defense and passing yards allowed, thanks in part to the secondary. The players in that secondary come from all over the country: Johnny Dixon from Tampa, Kalen King from Detroit, guys from Maryland and New York.

It’s a diverse group calling Happy Valley Home, but for Keaton Ellis, State College is all he knows.

“It’s a really different feeling,” Keaton says of a gameday in Happy Valley. “The town is so lively. There’s so much love and support, and just everybody coming together for a common goal. It is something like no other.”

He knows that special feeling not just from his experience as a player in the program, but Keaton grew up in State College.

“I was born in a hospital right by the stadium,” Keaton said. “As a kid growing up here, this is the bloodline of State College, Penn State football.”

He doesn’t remember his first time in Beaver Stadium, as there are too many trips to counts. Keaton attended games with his parents, who met at Penn State.

“I always looked up to Penn State players as a kid,” Keaton said. “So it was definitely always a dream of mine and something I wanted to do and accomplish. And I think it was a big motivator for me growing up.”

His football recruitment picked up his sophomore season at State College High School.

“My parents just stressed that you have to have the relationship with the coaches and make sure that’s good,” Keaton said. “Most schools offer the same things, but to have a relationship with not only the coaches but the players is key.”

As soon as the Nittany Lions offered, Keaton knew this will always be home.

“For me, that was a really cool moment in my life just to realize they want me,” Keaton said. “Not only do I want to go there, but they want me to come here, too.”

Keaton was a lifelong fan to now a future Letterman, just like his father, Bruce, who played for the Nittany Lions in the 1970s.

“This is my life,” Keaton said. “This is what I want to be, so the fan aspect kind of kind of separated.”

This Homecoming Weekend, the hometown kid gets to celebrate achieving his lifelong dream, cementing his legacy as one of Penn State’s captains in 2023.

“The history and everything that comes with it, it’s just such an honor,” Keaton said of being a captain. “To know that I’ve earned the respect of not only the players, but the staff, it just means a lot to me. I just want to be the best version of myself for the guys.”

And Keaton’s Penn State career all started because his parents found love in Happy Valley.

“I wouldn’t be here without my parents,” Keaton said. “I’m only child. So they were really just supportive of me and just loving to me. And I’m just thankful for all the things that they had done in my life because without them I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.”

Homecoming Weekend is all about the things that link Penn Staters together. To prove how small the Penn State community can be sometimes. Keaton’s dad, Bruce, graduated in 1977 after playing wide receiver for three seasons. Mike Mauti’s dad, Rich, was also a wide receiver in the program at the time and also graduated in 1977.

Penn State Football fans will get closer than ever to the team this fall, as abc27 launches Nittany Insiders. Every Saturday, the preview show will break down Penn State’s matchup, feature player’s stories off the field, and focus on NIL progress.

The weekly preview show will be co-hosted by former NFL linebacker and Penn State All-American Michael Mauti and abc27 Sports Director Allie Berube.

Each week Allie and Michael will break down the week’s upcoming game and share what the Nittany Lions will need to focus on for a win. Michael will be able to provide a unique expert analysis from the perspective of a former player.

The show will also feature a player spotlight, features on Lettermen, and content highlighting the program’s NIL efforts to create the most comprehensive Penn State show in the state each and every week.

Nittany Insiders will air every Saturday at 11:30 a.m. starting Saturday, August 26th. The 30-minute shows will feature interviews and insight you can only see on abc27.

To sign up for the Nittany Insiders newsletter and other abc27 newsletters, fill out your email and hit the sign up button above.