Dream has come true for Penn State backup quarterback McGregor

ASSOCIATED PRESS Bill O'Brien put Shane McGregor on full scholarship this year.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Bill O'Brien put Shane McGregor on full scholarship this year.
Posted: November 16, 2012

STATE COLLEGE - Shane McGregor's dream was crumbling before his eyes. The Central Cambria High senior, from the tiny town of Ebensburg in western Pennsylvania, always wanted to be a star Division I quarterback. But the offers just weren't there.

"I remember crying with my mother in the car," McGregor said. "It's a pretty emotional time when you're staring the death of your dream in the face. I was pretty much doing that."

So how did McGregor wind up playing football at Penn State, where his long blonde locks and heavy campus involvement have made him a popular player despite his role as the third-string quarterback?

Well, his mother and father, Beth and Bernie, knew how passionate about football Shane was. Beth promised Shane she would send out his highlight tape to every school that would take it. If they didn't respond, she'd send it again. And if they didn't respond after that, she'd call them. She said it was like a part-time job.

"As a parent, I wanted to help him as much as I could," Beth said. "It was a big effort, but I just wanted to do whatever I could to help him realize that dream."

Bernie said they were doing anything they could to "help him help himself."

It paid off. Bernie said a good friend of his, George Balanis, the Nike representative for the Eastern United States, knew Penn State's then-assistant coach Tom Bradley very well. Balanis talked to Bradley, who then asked Bernie for Shane's tape. Bradley showed the tape to other members of the coaching staff.

"[Bradley] called me back a couple of days later and said, 'Your kid's not bad, he can play. And I've done some research, he's a great student, I've called some people, and he's a great kid. He's the ideal walk-on,' " Bernie said. "That's how that whole process started."

McGregor already had applied to Penn State to attend as a student only. It was at the request of Beth, a Penn State alumna. When Shane heard what Bradley told his father, he was in disbelief.

"My dad told me he talked to Tom Bradley, and I was like, 'You're kidding, right? That's a good joke,' " McGregor said.

McGregor visited Penn State in February 2008, and would join the team as a preferred walk-on.

Fast forward almost 5 years, and now Shane McGregor is a well-known senior journalism student on a football scholarship who describes himself "as a regular college kid" who just so happens to play a "sport that a lot of people are interested in."

While his list of accomplishments on the field isn't extensive, McGregor certainly has made the most of his college experience.

"I love the idea of being as good as you can be in as many things that you can be involved in," McGregor said.

In February 2012, McGregor danced in THON, an event run by Penn State students that is the largest student philanthropic endeavor in the world. Dancers stand for 46 hours to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer. He also got the opportunity to cover the 2012 BCS national championship game through his involvement in Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism. A dean's list student, he was even a member of this year's homecoming court.

"I'd seen him around campus before knowing him and had heard all these things," said homecoming queen Tracey Edouard, who was paired with McGregor in this year's homecoming. "I was excited to be paired with him and get to know him on a real level, not all the gossip about his hair . . . he really is one of the most humble people I know."

That flowing, blond hair makes McGregor stand out on campus, and is part of the reason for his popularity. Though he rarely plays, he has more than 2,100 Twitter followers - an account for his hair itself, @SunshineFlow2, has almost 800.

During his playing career, he has completed one of four passes for 12 yards, and has one rushing touchdown. But McGregor doesn't bemoan the lack of playing time - he says he wouldn't do anything differently.

Instead of dreaming about playing time, he focuses on helping the Nittany Lions in the ways he can. Just like his parents' persistence, McGregor's paid off as well.

This summer, during the football team's Media Day, head coach Bill O'Brien came to McGregor and asked if he could see him in his office.

"I'm like, 'Oh jeez, I didn't do anything wrong, did I?' " McGregor said. "I'm trying to think of all these things that could be something wrong. So we're walking down the hallway, and he doesn't say a word to me the whole walk down the hallway. He's walking two steps ahead, and I'm like, 'Holy heck, what's going on here?' But then, we get to his office, and he was like, 'I just want to let you know we're putting you on scholarship.' It was totally out of leftfield. To be honest, I gave up on it."

The feel-good story is in its final chapters now, as McGregor will graduate from Penn State in December with degrees in journalism and English.

"You know how it is. There's a chapter for each part of your life," McGregor said. "This one's been great, and I'm sure the next will be even better. I'm thankful for everything I've done here, I'm thankful for everything I've been given here. It's been one hell of a ride."

Coach of the year?

Bill O'Brien was named to the watchlist for the 2013 Paul Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award.

AGENDA

Who: Penn State (6-4, 4-2 Big Ten) vs. Indiana (4-6, 2-4)

When: Saturday, noon

Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: WNTP (990-AM), WNPV (1440-AM)

3 things to watch:

1. Look for wide receiver Allen Robinson to make history. With one more catch, he will set Penn State's all-time record for catches in one season with 64. He will break the record held by O.J. McDuffie (1992) and Bobby Engram (1995). The sophomore only had three catches last season, but appears to have big things ahead.

2. Kicker Sam Ficken had a disastrous start to the season, going 1-for-5 and missing an extra point in a one-point loss to Virginia on Sept. 8. He now has made six field goals in a row and eight of his last nine. This probably won't change Bill O'Brien's aggressiveness on fourth down, but it certainly has been a good turnaround for the sophomore kicker.

3. Don't anticipate an empty student section, expect one that isn't up to Penn State's usual standards. Friday is the last day of class before Thanksgiving break begins, and plenty of students are expected to head home before the game. After a season such as this, it is unfortunate for Penn State that it plays its last two games at home during Thanksgiving break.

Prediction

Indiana deserves some credit for winning four games after it went 1-11 (0-8) last year. Nevertheless, expect the Nittany Lions to squash Indiana's chances of finishing with a .500 record. Penn State, a 17 1/2-point favorite, rolls to a 34-17 win.

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