For Bill O‚??Brien, the moment came back in spring practice. The moment when Matt McGloin had him convinced that he would be a successful quarterback came not on the field, but in a meeting room.
Some seven months later, the play that O‚??Brien asked McGloin to draw up was still embedded in his memory.
‚??Gun Trips Right 64 Special H Sneak,‚?Ě the Penn State coach said, rattling it off as he would his own phone number.
‚??He drew it up within about three seconds. Neatly,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said. ‚??And he knew the read (and) what everyone did. He drew up the front, the coverage, the protection, where it was supposed to go. Things (reporters) wouldn‚??t know. These are football things.
‚??I‚??ll never forget it. It was ‚?? bang. I just knew at that point that we had a kid that was working and wanted to be the starting quarterback.‚?Ě
So began the greatest statistical season for a quarterback in Penn State history.
McGloin has more yards (3,066), completions (251) and attempts (409) in 2012 than anyone before him. He can add to his school records on Saturday when he suits up one last time for the Nittany Lions.
The West Scranton grad needs to throw just one more touchdown to tie the single-season mark (24). He already holds the career record with 45 scores through the air. He is just the second Penn State quarterback to top 6,000 yards passing for his career.
Along the way he earned a scholarship. He beat out three guys who were considered blue-chip recruits to win the starting job at different points of the last three seasons.
And he went from being one of the most polarizing players in the fanbase to being one of the most celebrated.
‚??All I ask is for people to think (of me) as a guy who prepared as hard as he could,‚?Ě McGloin said. ‚??Who played as hard as he could every Saturday.‚?Ě
One more left.
For Charlie Fisher, the moment came on the field just a few weeks later in April.
Penn State‚??s new quarterbacks coach was the last member of O‚??Brien‚??s staff to come aboard over the winter. But he quickly developed a rapport with McGloin, the kind that never truly existed with Fisher‚??s predecessor, Jay Paterno.
With the new coaching staff essentially holding tryouts for every starting job, none was more important the one under center. Installing the far more complex offense O‚??Brien ran with the New England Patriots would depend predominately on having a bright and trustworthy quarterback.
And as spring ball began to wrap up, that‚??s exactly what Fisher started to see him in.
‚??You could just sense that the ball was coming out faster,‚?Ě Fisher said. ‚??His mind was starting to slow down. He was processing the information. He was getting the verbiage correct.
‚??He was just doing a lot of good things.‚?Ě
So it was no surprise that McGloin was awarded the job after spring practice, the first time he would be starting from day one of the season.
‚??Toward the end of the spring, I really started to get the grasp of it,‚?Ě McGloin said of the new playbook. ‚??I started getting comfortable with the play-calls. You stop thinking about it and just play. I‚??d go through reads and feel really comfortable with what I was doing.
‚??Then halfway through the season we really hit our stride and started doing great things with it.‚?Ě
For Allen Robinson and several teammates, the moment came in the summer.
McGloin had already won the job, but he made sure to keep refining things during downtime, when coaches aren‚??t allowed to help out. So McGloin would gather teammates like Robinson and tight end Kyle Carter, a pair of second-year players who became his top two targets.
‚??Me and Matt really got out there and were able to connect a lot, going through all our routes,‚?Ě said Robinson, who has shared in the records along with McGloin. The sophomore already has the schools‚?? single-season reception record and is now poised to become just the second wideout in team history to post 1,000 yards in a season.
‚??It took through the spring and summer, but (because of the work we put in), it didn‚??t take a tremendous amount of time for us to get this connection.‚?Ě
Fellow fifth-year senior Matt Stankiewitch, one of McGloin‚??s roommates, credits that diligence away from the cameras and the spotlight for making the biggest difference.
‚??We‚??re all competitors as athletes,‚?Ě Stankiewitch said. ‚??And I think Matt is maybe a little more competitive than the average athlete. ‚?Ľ And I think that being a competitor rubs off on people.‚?Ě
For Joe Paterno, the moment may have come four years ago.
McGloin had no offers from FBS schools coming out of West Scranton, where he helped lead the Invaders to a District 2 Class 3A championship as a senior. He opted to walk on at Penn State rather than head to a lower level on scholarship.
It only took a few days into his first preseason camp for McGloin to stand out to his Hall of Fame coach. While everyone was eager to know whether Daryll Clark or Pat Devlin would replace Anthony Morelli as the starter, Paterno made sure to mention McGloin.
Without actually mentioning him.
‚??We have a walk-on that‚??s really impressed me. A true freshman kid,‚?Ě Paterno said at preseason media day in August 2008. ‚??And I won‚??t get into names, because if I open it up for one freshman, I‚??ve gotta open it up for a lot of kids.‚?Ě
It was Paterno who would give McGloin his shot midway through the 2010 season after starter Rob Bolden was knocked out of a game at Minnesota. He would get his first start the next week under the lights at Beaver Stadium, beating Michigan.
Though he would continue to split time, McGloin was the one who got to take the final knee against Northwestern a week later, handing the game ball over to Paterno for his 400th career win.
For Matt McGloin himself, there was no one moment.
The Scranton native always knew he could be successful at Penn State. And he noted every snicker, every roll of the eyes that greeted him in 2010, when he first said he could beat out the likes of Bolden, Paul Jones and Kevin Newsome for the starting job.
He fought that perception ‚?? from the coaching staff as well as the media and the fans ‚?? for all of 2010 and 2011 as he rotated with Bolden.
‚??I know I came here without a scholarship,‚?Ě McGloin said. ‚??So I approached practice each and every day like it was the last. Because if I didn‚??t perform well Tuesday and Wednesday, I didn‚??t know if I was gonna play Saturday.
‚??So if that‚??s one thing I can relay to (younger players) ‚?? don‚??t take anything for granted.‚?Ě
Saturday will come and McGloin will be honored before the game, walking through the tunnel with his family as part of a one-of-a-kind senior day ceremony.
And after that‚?Ľ who knows?
‚??My advice (to him) is to play football as long as they let you play football,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said. ‚??You mean go get a real job? No! Play as long as you can. Personally, I‚??ll do whatever I can to help him. I think he‚??s a great kid, I think he‚??s a competitive kid. I love coaching him, I love watching him play. Love watching him play!
‚??I hope he gets that opportunity. It‚??s not easy. It‚??s not easy in (the NFL), and that‚??s the hardest position to play in that league, and it‚??s very competitive. ‚?Ľ But I know he‚??ll compete. And if given the opportunity, he‚??ll go in there and do the best he can.
‚??I hope he tries to play forever.‚?Ě
Maybe it is a long shot. But so was becoming one of the most prolific players in Penn State history.
‚??I wasn‚??t supposed to play here at all,‚?Ě McGloin said. ‚??You guys remember that. I think I showed I was capable of doing it. You want to talk about skillsets or performances ‚?? I just go back to saying I wasn‚??t supposed to play D-I football.
‚??So who‚??s to say I can‚??t play at the next level?‚?Ě
Wisconsin at Penn State
3:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2