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McGloin era coming to a close at Penn State

| Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, 10:54 p.m.
Tribune-Review
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Matt McGloin (11) and center Matt Stankiewitch (54) communicate with their teammates at the line of scrimmage against the Temple Owls at Beaver Stadium in University Park on September 22, 2012. Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Temple Owls 24-13. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review

The Matt McGloin narrative is really quite simple according to the foremost authority on it.

“I wanted to play football at the highest level and always thought I had the ability to,” McGloin said. “Penn State wanted me as a preferred walk-on, and I came here and the rest is history.”

McGloin's time at Penn State has followed anything but a linear path, and the fifth-year senior caps a career that has been everything from vexing to vindicating Saturday when Penn State hosts Wisconsin in the regular-season finale for each team.

McGloin has taken ownership of an offense that Bill O'Brien said has exceeded the first-year coach's expectations. And the 6 foot 1, 199-pounder has made such dramatic improvement in his only season as a starter that he will leave Penn State as one of the most prolific passers in school history.

McGloin has more touchdown passes (45) than any player in school history, and his 3,066 passing yards in 2012 are a Penn State single-season record. The player who was roundly criticized the previous two seasons has put himself among the great quarterbacks in school history, at least statistically, despite such humble beginnings.

Plenty of walk-ons have risen to prominence at Penn State, but quarterback had been a position where a former non-scholarship player had never made much of an impact before McGloin.

And he has done it in his own inimitable way, blurring the line between cocksure and confident while passing more highly touted quarterbacks on the depth chart — and ultimately winning the confidence of his teammates and coaches.

O'Brien had opened up the quarterback competition after taking over as head coach, and in one meeting he asked McGloin to diagram a play from an offense the players were still learning.

“He drew it up in about three seconds,” O'Brien said. “You have to have those traits to be a successful quarterback.”

That is one thing quarterback coach Charlie Fisher knew before he started mentoring McGloin and helping him hone his mechanics.

“I heard different things,” Fisher said, “just that he's a fiery guy.”

That fire is a product of growing up the youngest of three brothers in the working-class city of Scranton. Long before he had to battle quarterbacks who had not been overlooked by FBS schools, McGloin had to fight just to compete with his brothers.

“They're more relaxed and calm,” McGloin said. “I had to kick and scream growing up.”

That upbringing is why it surprised no one when McGloin assumed the role of aggrieved spokesman a couple of weeks ago after a 32-23 loss at Nebraska. The game turned on a disputed call that turned what looked like a Penn State touchdown into a lost fumble.

McGloin said after the game that Penn State will never get the benefit of a call in the Big Ten, implying the stigma that has shadowed the program in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal also has impacted the way games are officiated.

And he stood by his words.

“I don't think I ever regret anything I ever say,” McGloin said.

He will finish the season as the Big Ten's leader in passing, and his legacy at Penn State is secure.

“The main thing for our senior class is to send the season off on a high note,” McGloin said. “I'm going to miss everything about this place.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com.

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