For this, Matt McGloin was happy to make an exception.
While he was playing, McGloin never wanted to be defined by the fact he arrived at Penn State as a walk-on. Now that his time with the Nittany Lions is up, he can reflect on how far he came.
The senior quarterback from Scranton earned his scholarship after one year and left Penn State with a host of school records. On Monday he earned formal recognition of that success, winning the Burlsworth Trophy as the nation's top player who began his career as a walk-on.
Today took me back to the beginning of my career, McGloin said at the award ceremony in Springdale, Ark., via Penn State. (This week) I looked back at what I have gone through and the journey that I have taken at Penn State and to be recognized for my accomplishments and the way that I got to Penn State is a true blessing.
I am fortunate to be in the company of such great people that are involved with this award and to win such an amazing award today is just indescribable.
McGloin edged out two other finalists in San Jose State tackle David Quessenberry and Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs. McGloin actually faced off against Kovacs in his first career start at Penn State, throwing for 250 yards and a touchdown against the Wolverines in a 41-31 win in 2010 at Beaver Stadium.
A week later, McGloin took over under center for Rob Bolden in the second quarter and rallied the Lions from a 21-point deficit to beat Northwestern 35-21 in what was Joe Paterno's 400th career win.
He had been the first former walk-on to start at quarterback under Paterno and that title – former walk-on – was firmly affixed to him throughout 2010 and much of 2011 when he split time with Bolden.
It was a term that always bothered him because of its implied inferiority. And his opinion didn't soften any this fall after he was entrenched as the full-time starter.
It's just a stupid term to begin with, McGloin said in September. I don't agree with it. You do the same things as scholarship (players). I don't agree with the term walk-on and I don't feel comfortable with it. Even if you're a walk-on or you're on scholarship, you have to earn the right to play, in my opinion.
And McGloin did just that. He finished his college career as Penn State's career leader for passing touchdowns (46), completions in a season (270), attempts in a season (446), passing yardage in a season (3,266) and passing touchdowns in a season (24, tied).
His 395 yards passing against Indiana in November and his 35 completions against Northwestern in October were also single-game school records.
The West Scranton grad led the Big Ten in passing yards, passing touchdowns and completions as a senior and was an honorable mention all-conference selection.
The trophy is named in honor of Brandon Burlsworth, who walked on at Arkansas in 1994, became a three-year starter and was eventually named an All-American in 1998. He was selected as the 63rd overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1999 NFL draft but was killed in a car accident 11 days later.
Established in 2010, the Burlsworth Trophy was previously awarded to Southern Mississippi quarterback Austin Davis in 2011 and Georgia Tech offensive lineman Sean Bedford in 2010.
It's great for the university, McGloin said. To be honored as the top walk-on for this year's graduating class is a great honor. I wouldn't have been able to be here without the support of my family, teammates, coaches and fans. It's really because of those people that I am where I am today and am able to win such a prestigious award.
McGloin's roommate and his coach were also honored on Monday as Matt Stankiewitch was named a finalist for the Rimington Award as the country's best center and Bill O'Brien was installed as a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.
Stankiewitch, a two-year starter at center who just finished his Penn State career, was named a first-team All-Big Ten selection last week. He is one of six finalists for the Rimington, which was won by teammate A.Q. Shipley in 2008.
O'Brien already swept both Big Ten Coach of the Year awards and was one of nine finalists for the Robinson, the first of several national awards O'Brien is expected to be nominated for.
Also on Monday, Penn State's entire senior class was recognized by the Maxwell Club, which awarded the seniors the Thomas Brookshier Spirit Award for their incredible commitment, character and effort during the past year, the organization said.