Penn State's McGloin is a walk-on wonder

Quarterback Matt McGloin was pressed into action in the Minnesota game when starter Rob Bolden went down.
Quarterback Matt McGloin was pressed into action in the Minnesota game when starter Rob Bolden went down.
Posted: November 04, 2010

No one ever said college football recruiting was an exact science.

Matt McGloin performed well enough at West Scranton High School - with nearly 5,500 yards passing and 58 touchdown throws as a three-year starter - to attract the attention of several major colleges, including Boston College, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Syracuse, and, to a lesser extent, Penn State.

However, none of them came through with a scholarship offer, maybe because he is 6-foot-1, and that left McGloin with a tough decision. He could accept a scholarship at a Football Championship Subdivision school or walk on at a bigger school, trying to fulfill his dream of being a college quarterback at the highest level.

McGloin took a chance and headed to Penn State as a "preferred" walk-on to join the incoming Class of 2008. That decision looked golden after he became the first former walk-on in Joe Paterno's 45-year reign as head coach to start a game, leading the Nittany Lions to a 41-31 victory over Michigan on Saturday night.

"You always have some doubts in your mind, but I always had confidence I could do it," McGloin said Wednesday. "That's what you strive for. That's why you get up early and go down and work out and run with the team. I had to prove myself, and I think I did that."

Freshman Rob Bolden, the starter in the season's first seven games, has recovered from concussion-like symptoms. Paterno declared an open competition between Bolden and McGloin to determine who will start this Saturday against Northwestern, a game that could give the coach his 400th career win.

McGloin said that his parents supported him while he considered his college options but that the final decision was "all me."

"It's a great place to play college football," he said. "When the opportunity comes, I have to make the most of it. And besides, who wouldn't want to play football for Joe Paterno?"

McGloin also considered Penn State's quarterback situation. Anthony Morelli, a senior in 2007, was gone, and there was talk that the loser of the duel to replace him between Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin eventually would transfer.

Devlin did so after the 2008 season, and that left McGloin with Clark and incoming freshman Kevin Newsome as the only QBs in 2009.

"That put Matt up there," said Mike DeAntona, McGloin's high school coach. "The first year [2008] was his redshirt year and he was able to learn the system. The following year, Devlin transferred after Clark got the job. So that was a good situation to walk into."

McGloin, who was awarded a scholarship before the 2009 season, competed for the starter's job this preseason but had dropped to third on the depth chart before he played in the Minnesota game after Bolden was injured.

Early on, DeAntona got to see McGloin's finer qualities, which he described as "his competitiveness, his inner self-motivation, the fact that he just hates to lose."

Then there's confidence, an important factor when a player goes into a situation as a walk-on with no guarantee that he will ever play.

"He's always been a confident kid and a confident player," DeAntona said. "Matt truly believes that through preparation and hard work, he can't be beat. He's really confident with that. He knows how to prepare. When you're prepared, that gives you confidence."

Paterno also has noticed those traits in McGloin.

"I think McGloin is a competitor," he said. "He's kind of a live wire. I like him. I think he's got ability."

McGloin played so well against Michigan - making no turnovers as the Lions hit a season high for points against a Big Ten opponent - that ESPN commentator Kirk Herbstreit offered an apology for saying that McGloin wouldn't be able to move the offense.

"I got a lot of texts telling me what he said," McGloin said. "It's a good feeling to know he did that. It's all in good fun. That's his job. He has to pick teams. I still like him, though."

Nevertheless, a nationally televised apology has to be some kind of first for a former walk-on quarterback, even a confident one.


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

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