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PennState_Over2Nov. 7, 2009. A familiar scene: A group of guys watching the Penn State/Ohio State football game. Some were rooting for the Nittany Lions, while others were cheering on the Buckeyes. A few just grumbled in the background that the SEC was the better conference overall.

But this wasn?t at a sports bar or a backyard party. It was inside a tent full of U.S. Marines at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.

One of the people cheering for the Nittany Lions that day was Pennsylvania native and U.S. Marine Corporal Clayton Over. After four years in the service and two tours in Iraq, he was finishing up his military career. In a few years, he would go on to graduate with a degree in journalism from his beloved Penn State and work full-time as a reporter at a daily newspaper.

But this story doesn?t start there. It begins when Over - who had just begun 8th grade - saw breaking news of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Over the next few days, he and the rest of the country watched in horror as footage from those terrible events was aired over and over again, and the realization began to sink in that the world was a very different place than it had been just a few days before.

Both of Over?s grandfathers and two of his uncles were in the military, so he was already interested in the idea of joining the service, but after watching the World Trade Center buildings crumble, he saw it as his duty. Throughout high school, he researched and explored all of his options, but was most taken with the Marines when it came time to make a decision.

?I liked what the Marine recruiter had to say,? Over explained. ?He said straight up that there would be days that suck. And also that Marines are elite - they pride themselves on being the few and the proud, and that was something that spoke to me.?

From there, Over took his Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) exam and scored so high that he qualified for every job in the Corps. But he was set on being in the infantry as a mortar man.

?My recruiter said to me ?You can do any job. Why do you want to be a grunt??? Over said. ?It went back to my history days, reading about the Marines at Iwo Jima and everywhere else. My grandfather, who was in the Army, was a mortar man in Korea, and that?s specifically why I chose that job.?

In 2005, just 10 days after graduating, Over was on a bus headed to Paris Island, S.C., to begin basic training. When he arrived, he was greeted by a scene that was previously immortalized by Stanley Kubrick in his 1987 Vietnam War drama, Full Metal Jacket.

?Paris Island is an iconic Marine Corps place - they come in [and] yell at you right off the bat,? he said. ?Full Metal Jacket isn?t 100 percent accurate, but it?s a pretty fair portrayal. It is true that the first thing they do is cut off all your hair.?

After boot camp, the next step was infantry school in Camp Geiger, N.C., where he was trained to be a mortar man. Six months later, he was deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. Known as ?America?s Battalion,? the unit has a storied history. During World War II, it was involved in the key Pacific Theater battles such as Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan.

The influence of Over?s family and his interest in history impacted not only his decision to serve, but also his post-military career choice of journalism.

?My interest in the news and the media stemmed from much earlier in life when I spent time at my grandparents? house growing up,? he said. ?They always had newspapers and magazines sitting around and the TV news on.

?I?ve been a news consumer a long time. I think, subconsciously, it was in the back of my head then. I was always good at writing, and it was something I always liked. It really wasn?t until I was in the service - [when] I would tell people stories, and they listened and seemed to like it - [that] I thought that it might be a good job for me to do.?

Over?s growing passion for news was also flamed by his parents routinely sending him copies of the local paper while he was stationed overseas. And phone calls with them also included updates on Penn State sports, along with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins.

When he was discharged in 2009, Over spent a couple of years doing odd jobs, including stints as a garbage man, car detailer and waiter. In 2011, he enrolled at Penn State?s Altoona campus as a journalism major, but ultimately transferred to the? big campus? in State College. And he graduated last month

Campus changes notwithstanding, Over?s collegiate choice was not a difficult one.

?I grew up bleeding blue and white,? he said. ?I knew I was going to go to Penn State.?

[btn-post-package]While in State College, Over covered the ?cops and courts? beat at the prestigious, Pulitzer Prize-winning Daily Collegian student newspaper. His work there made an impression, and he eventually moved to the same beat for the local paper, The Centre Daily Times.

He?s still there too. While Over didn?t set out to be a crime reporter, he quickly found a passion and a knack for it.

?You?re the first to find out and the first to report it,? he explained. ?People like to read crime stories, and I think it?s cool that people read what I write. What got me hooked on it was, frankly, just doing it.?

But regardless of what he?s writing about, Over takes the ethics of his profession seriously. His advice to other journalism students is to understand the impact that their writing can have and strive to be accurate and honest.

?When it comes to journalism, your word is everything,? he said. ?If you compromise that, you?re not doing much of anything.?

By Ben Warden