In McGloin, PSU developed model walk-on for future

In quarterback Matt McGloin, coach Bill O’Brien found the

shining example of how much a former walk-on can succeed at Penn


A year for McGloin that included school records for career

touchdown passes and single-season passing yards ended with the

senior winning the Burlsworth Trophy, an award given to the top

college player who started his career as a walk-on.

Perfect timing for a program that may need to rely on walk-ons

more over the next few seasons. Scholarship cuts that are part of

the NCAA sanctions for the school’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky

child molestation scandal start taking effect in 2013.

”I did realize throughout the season that I could be the face

of the program and help out walk-ons everywhere,” McGloin said

this week. ”It’s not how you get there – it’s what you do when you

get there.”

The award comes with a bit of irony for McGloin, who has been

vocal throughout his career about disliking the term ”walk-on.”

The fifth-year senior did go on scholarship about 11 months after

arriving at Penn State in 2008.

”It’s unfair in a way due to the fact that I’ve done everything

that a scholarship kid has done here, but what people don’t

understand is that as a walk-on you have to work twice as hard to

earn your keep,” McGloin said.

He certainly made a name for himself this season.

He broke the school record with 46 career touchdown passes,

throwing 24 in 2012 to tie Daryll Clark (2009) for the Nittany

Lions’ single-season mark.

The season is over despite an 8-4 record and second-place finish

in the Big Ten Leaders Division because the sanctions also included

a four-year postseason ban. But the better-than-expected record and

the Nittany Lions’ fiery, blue-collar mentality under first-year

coach Bill O’Brien have left a lasting impression with high school

coaches like Central Dauphin’s Glen McNamee. One of McNamee’s

players, former walk-on Derek Day, ended up starting a game at

running back and becoming a special teams ace.

Tight end Matt Lehman also came to Penn State a walk-on from

Newport, in central Pennsylvania, and emerged into a pass-catching

threat in O’Brien’s new passing offense orchestrated by McGloin.

Senior safety Jacob Fagnano arrived at Penn State as a walk-on from

Williamsport and ended his career as a key reserve and starting his

last two games following an injury to Malcolm Willis.

”There’s a tremendous amount of pride in the community,”

McNamee said. ”Guys like Derek grow up dreaming of playing at Penn

State. There are still a lot of kids who have that dream.”

The NCAA sanctions limit Penn State’s recruiting classes to no

more than 15 a year for the next four years, starting with the 2013

class to be signed in February. Most teams can sign 25.

Starting with the 2014 season, the Nittany Lions can only have

65 players on scholarship until after the 2017 season. The usual

scholarship limit for major college teams is 85.

Walk-ons will need to fill the gap for Penn State.

One of McNamee’s players, Drew Scales, said he’s looking at Penn

State in hopes of getting a scholarship offer, but that he could

also see coming to Happy Valley as a walk-on with a shot to

contribute early in his career. The speedy 5-foot-8 senior said

he’s being recruited as a slot receiver.

Seeing Penn State’s offense transform into a successful passing

attack under O’Brien changed Scales’ view of Penn State.

”Honestly, I haven’t been a huge Penn State fan, but when Bill

O’Brien got there, it completely changed my view,” he said. ”I

like the way he opened up the offense.”

Guy Montecalvo, the athletic director at Canon-McMillan High

School in western Pennsylvania, said walk-ons will be needed to

bolster depth in order for the Nittany Lions to remain competitive.

Montecalvo also coached current Nittany Lions linebacker Mike Hull,

who figures to be a key player on defense next season.

Montecalvo, who also played at Penn State, said McGloin became a

model for other prospective walk-ons.

”I certainly think he is a shining example of what can happen

to a young man if he has the courage of convictions to pursue his

dream,” Montecalvo said.

McGloin did that and became a starter against long odds, beating

out highly-recruited players during his career including Rob

Bolden. He has since transferred to LSU. McGloin and Bolden split

the job the previous two seasons under former coach Joe


O’Brien named McGloin the starter after spring practice, and

McGloin flourished with a full offseason knowing he was going to

lead the offense redesigned by O’Brien.

Now, being known as a former walk-on isn’t so bad.

”Walk-ons want their names recognized. Myself, I liked the

challenge,” he said. ”I like being the underdog, wanting to earn

respect and recognition each and every day.”

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