The Gunslinger's Final Duel

On a cool night in October 2010, a gunslinger was born. - Mike Pettigano / BSD

Matt McGloin will enter Beaver Stadium for the last time as a player tomorrow. He'll leave it as one of the most revered Nittany Lions of all-time.

"You wanna hate me then hate me, what can I do but keep gettin' money, funny I was just like you. I had to hustle hard, never give up until I made it. Now you all sayin' that's a clever *****, nothin' to play with."

Yep, I just quoted the Brooklyn rapper Nas to describe the Irish-Catholic quarterback from Scranton Matt McGloin. Think it's weird? Hardly. Go watch his press conference from after the Nebraska game again. He's got the same tough-nosed, rough around the edges attitudes that guys from the cities do.....in a way.....kinda.....you know what I'm getting at.

Matt McGloin hasn't let anything get to him in his five years at Penn State. Not the walk-on spot he had to take in Happy Valley after schools like Maryland and Virginia Tech passed on offering a scholarship. Not when he was passed over for the starting job by true freshman Rob Bolden in 2010 and again in 2011. Not when he threw two pick-sixes in the span of minutes in Columbus in 2010 where Penn State had a chance to steal one from the ninth-ranked Buckeyes. Not after his dreadful five-interception performance in the 2010 Outback Bowl where some fans went over the line in comments and columnists couldn't find anything good to say either. And not when those same fans and columnists criticized new coach Bill O'Brien's decision to name him the 2012 starter on June 1st.

He was one of the most-hated men on campus for parts of three years. He'll walk into and leave Beaver Stadium on Saturday as one of the most-beloved in Nittany Lion history.

He'll go down as, statistically, one of the greatest quarterbacks to come through the university. He holds single-season records in completions and yardage. He is the school's all-time leading touchdown passer. Take out his five interceptions from the Outback Bowl game and his career TD-INT ratio is 45-14.

It was never the stats that turned people off from McGloin. It was the attitude. It was the pompousness. Many remember the brief Twitter war he and Jeff got into a few years back. During that time, he also made condescending remarks about Bolden when he first sought to transfer from Penn State, calling him "a good backup to have" only a short time after McGloin's Outback Bowl. Then, there was the fight with Curtis Drake before the TicketCity Bowl last season which led to him being concussed and not available to play in the bowl. Combine that with the gunslinger mentality that he went out onto the field with and it's no wonder why a majority of fans couldn't get behind him.

But, for all the "moxie" that McGloin seemed to have used wrongly in 2010 and 2011, it was exactly what this team needed in 2012. Alongside guys like Michael Mauti and Michael Zordich, McGloin was a vocal leader on this team, saying what needed to be said when the world was crumbling down around his fellow teammates.

If I have learned anything from this game, it is: "tough times don't last, tough people do." This program has been through some hard times. I and many others, have stayed here out of love for this university; its academic programs, teammates, our wonderful fans and tremendous student body. We, as student-athletes, are being punished for going to class, graduating, being involved in the community and playing football. Even though these penalties are extremely harsh, I am a Nittany Lion and will remain one. I believe in the core values I have learned in this program. It is not Nittany Lion Football. It is Nittany Lion family. I encourage all players, recruits, and supporters to stay committed to the greatest football program in America. Scholarships and bowl games cannot destroy the fabric of our family. Coach O'Brien and his staff will lead us through this difficult time. All I ask is for the fans to continue to believe in us. WE ARE!

- Matt McGloin, July 24, one day after the NCAA sanctions were announced

And then there was this after the Nebraska game:

If he was saying these things to the media, imagine what he was telling his teammates behind closed doors to get them fired up.

His play on the field changed. He was no longer the gunslinger. You didn't have to close your eyes when he took that big five-step drop. He was cerebral. He still doesn't have the big arm, but he has played smart enough not to need it.

Matt McGloin came into Penn State with a chip on his shoulder, much like many of the recruits who came into the program during the past 50 years by some coach who saw potential in players when no one else did. And, like a major majority of those recruits, he's leaving Penn State surrounded by a sense of accomplishment.

And so, the time has come. He'll go back-to-back and take his ten steps for the last time tomorrow. And if this year has told me anything, when he turns around, I find it highly unlikely that he's going to miss. And he'll continue not to miss when he moves on from here.


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