Penn State left tackle Olu Fashanu told ESPN he's returning to school next year, a surprising move in NFL circles considering he is projected as the top offensive line prospect in the 2023 NFL draft.
Fashanu, 19, is a redshirt sophomore who is in his first full season as a starter at Penn State. Fashanu is 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds and played high school football at Gonzaga College High in Washington, D.C.
Fashanu established himself as one of the top offensive linemen in the country this season, with some scouts projecting him as likely a top-10 draft pick.
Fashanu said he rarely looks at social media and had no idea about his rising draft stock until teammates showed him a mock draft this season.
Fashanu told ESPN that he felt as if he has "unfinished business" at Penn State and that he's returning primarily to help the Nittany Lions accomplish bigger goals, specifically naming the Big Ten championship and a national title as two things he'd like to achieve in 2023. He stressed that the potential of the core of young talent at Penn State is appealing to him, and he's appreciative of the chemistry he has built with offensive line coach Phil Trautwein and with coach James Franklin.
Fashanu also said he'll get his degree in supply chain management sometime in the next year and plans to start his master's.
"Penn State is an awesome place to go to school," he said. "And I can get my education for free."
Fashanu's length, athleticism and power are appealing to NFL scouts. After surging to the top of most NFL teams' boards for the 2023 draft, he will instead likely enter next season in the rare air of top prospects, an early group that is likely to include Drake Maye, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Caleb Williams -- his high school teammate from Gonzaga.
"I think he would have been the top tackle in this draft and a top-10 pick," one NFL scout told ESPN. "He's a check-all-the-boxes guy -- high character. He's a sure-fire high pick. It's an easy evaluation."
The pull of his team and his education brought Fashanu back to Penn State. When the young offensive core of freshman quarterback Drew Allar and freshman tailbacks Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen was mentioned to Fashanu, he countered by pointing out how good they can be next year with a full offseason of training and development.
"I just can't wait to get to work this offseason," he said.
Fashanu has started just nine games in his career -- eight of them came this season. He hasn't played since getting injured against Ohio State in October, missing the past four games. The undisclosed injury is not considered serious, and he's expected to participate fully in spring football.
In terms of what Fashanu is looking forward to, aside from his weekly trips to Penn State's Berkey Creamery for its famed ice cream, he mostly stressed being with his teammates. After making significant progress from 2021 to 2022, he can't wait to see what happens next year after another offseason of work.
"I feel like we've come a long way and there's more we can do," he said.
The news is a huge boon to Penn State, which went 10-2 this season and expects to return a talented young roster.
"We couldn't be more excited to have Olu return for the 2023 season," Franklin said. "He is a person of high character who exemplifies our core values, leads by example and models what it means to be a complete Penn State student-athlete. We will continue to work extremely hard to help Olu achieve all of his goals on and off the field and look forward to another season with him and his family in Happy Valley."