Clock Winds Down on Amazing Career

Walk-on-turned-star QB Matt McGloin and his family expecting an emotional Senior Day when the Penn State football team takes on Wisconsin at Beaver Stadium Saturday.

Penn State's goal all season, Matt McGloin said Tuesday, has been to “approach each and every game like it's our last.”

On Saturday, that will in fact be the case for McGloin and his fellow seniors.

It promises to be a Senior Day like no other. Word has already circulated that there will be a “first-time-ever” presentation before the season finale against Wisconsin, which seems altogether fitting and proper, given the way this class has conducted itself in the face of unprecedented obstacles. And McGloin said the idea is to “leave on a high note,” to beat the Badgers and finish 8-4.

His parents, Paul and Cathy, are expected to be on hand. Ditto for his two older brothers, Paul Jr. and John. It was Matt's dad who said earlier this season that no matter what happens, he will regard Matt's career as an unqualified success -- and that was before the younger McGloin established himself as the Big Ten's best passer, before he gave Bill O'Brien's offense wings.

“Four years ago, we had no idea what was going to happen,” Paul McGloin said then, as he sat in the living room of the family's home in Scranton. Matt-themed memorabilia was everywhere. There was also a sign on the table near the TV: “It's A Wonderful Life.” That happens to be Paul's favorite movie, as well as the way he tends to view things.

“He could still be sitting on the sideline with people saying, 'Who's No. 11?' ” the elder McGloin said. “My feeling is, he persevered over the four years to get here. … I'm proud of him to get where he's at.”

Paul admits to being “very sentimental” --so much so that he cried after Matt threw his first career touchdown pass, two years ago against Minnesota, and teared up again when Matt was named a captain before a game earlier this season.

So yeah, he figures to be a mess when his son emerges one last time from Beaver Stadium's south tunnel Saturday.

“I'll tell you right now -- I'll probably be the last guy to leave Beaver Stadium,” Paul said back then.

His son has left a lasting impression. During last week's rout of Indiana, he set single-season records for completions (251) and passing yards (3,071), as well as career marks for touchdown passes (45), 200-yard games (17), 300-yard games (six) and consecutive 200-yard games (nine).

Matt, second in single-season TD passes (23) and career yardage (6,190), has completed 61.4 percent of his attempts this season, and has been intercepted just five times.

“It's been fantastic to see him develop,” QB coach Charlie Fisher said Wednesday. “He's endured a lot. He's gone through a lot of ups and downs, like all quarterbacks and all players. When you play the quarterback position, it's not going to be all roses. There's going to be some tough days. To me, that's the measure of a really, really good quarterback -- a guy that can bounce back from the tough days or the bad throw or the bad decision and keep going.”

And goodness knows, McGloin has done that. His history is well-known -- from his walk-on past to the fact that he has never had the position to himself until this season.

“To see him go out his fifth year and play the way he has,” Fisher said, “it's been fantastic.”

Fisher said that when he was an assistant at Vanderbilt he reviewed some video of McGloin from his days at West Scranton High School, since Fisher's recruiting territory was Pennsylvania. While Fisher liked what he saw, the Commodores decided not to recruit McGloin, because their coaches didn't believe he would be a good fit in their zone-read attack.

So McGloin, who didn't have any major-college offers, went to Penn State as a preferred walk-on. That's because, he said, “I wanted to play football at the highest level. I thought I had the ability to, and was capable of performing on Saturday. Penn State wanted me as a walk-on, and I came here and the rest is history, I guess you could say.”

An arduous climb up the depth chart ensued. That it has proved so successful comes as no surprise to Fisher.

“That's that Scranton in him,” he said.

Neither O'Brien nor Fisher looked at video of McGloin from earlier in his career after they were hired, choosing instead to evaluate him based only upon what they saw with their own eyes.

Certainly there were mileposts along the way. O'Brien said after the Indiana game that he knew McGloin was zeroed in on winning the job in the spring from Rob Bolden and Paul Jones -- both of whom were still around then -- when the head coach asked him to draw up a play called “Gun Trips Right 64 Special H Sneak.”

“He drew it up within about three seconds -- neatly,” O'Brien said.

Fisher said Wednesday he remembered that day, too. But he also recalled a day later in the spring -- it was a Monday, he said, and the team practiced inside Holuba Hall -- when things really seemed like they were starting to click for McGloin.

“You could just kind of sense that the ball was coming out fast, his mind was starting to slow down, he was processing the information, he was getting the verbiage correct,” Fisher said. “He was just doing a lot of good things.”

He has continued in that fashion ever since.

So now comes one last milepost. Asked Tuesday what he might miss most about playing at Penn State, McGloin said performing before 100,000-plus fans each Saturday.

And what would he miss least?

“Talking to the media every week,” he said during a conference call with reporters. “Just kidding. That was a joke, guys.”

It would be entirely understandable if it were not, given the tendency in this day and age to over-analyze the utterance of every public figure -- even those of a college kid. But let the record also show that McGloin, a broadcast journalism/telecommunications major (he graduates next month), was refreshingly candid and forthright whenever he dealt with the members of the Fourth Estate.

In general, he said, “I'm going to miss everything about this place. It's a great place, and the people that you meet are very special. It's going to be an emotional day, come Saturday.”

But not too emotional, he said. Not during the game itself. Then, he believes, he will be able to focus on the task at hand.

The other stuff? He'll leave that to his dad.

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