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Penn State Football: Collins, McGloin, Hack are Passed, Present & Future NFL QBs

by on September 05, 2014 12:50 AM

This week is the most perfect of storms in the history of Penn State pro quarterbacks:

And we’re talking PSU NFL QBs passed, present and future.

On Saturday in Dublin, Christian Hackenberg completed over four football fields' worth of passes to set a school record and lead Penn State to a 26-24 comeback victory over Central Florida. And that was before most folks had their second Bloody Mary or third cup of Irish coffee.

Later that day, an ocean and a continent away in Oakland, Calif., Matt McGloin got word that he had made the Raiders' NFL roster. Again.

This Saturday, when Hackenberg and Penn State face Akron in Penn State’s 2014 home opener in Beaver Stadium, Kerry Collins and his teammates from the Nittany Lions’ magnificent 12-0 1994 team will be honored.

And let’s assume Penn State’s starter at quarterback is just 23 or 25 games away from an early jump to the NFL. (Which would make Ohio State on Oct. 25 the midpoint, at a bowl-returning best, of Hackenberg's PSU career. Yikes.)  Allowing Hackenberg a year or two to become his pro team’s No. 1 quarterback, that would make only three Penn State quarterbacks who started an NFL game in a quarter of a century.

Kerry, McG, Hack. Three unlikely peas in a pod.

McGloin, for one, couldn’t be happier about Collins getting his due once again, two decades, 23.3 miles of passing yardage and one Super Bowl appearance later. McGloin remembers meeting Collins prior to Penn State’s game against Ohio State in 2012.

“That was the first time I ever met him,” McGloin recalled by telephone from California earlier this week. “It was awesome. Back then, it was hard to fathom that he’s Kerry Collins and he played the same position I did – quarterback at Penn State. It was awesome talking with him, being around him and meeting him. It was definitely a great honor for me.”

10 STARTERS, 180 STARTS 

There were 10 degrees of Penn State starting quarterbacks separation between Collins, whose last start was a 38-20 blowout over Oregon in the 1995 Rose Bowl, and McGloin’s first start as a Penn State QB, a 41-31 win over Michigan in 2010. (A week later he threw four TD passes to lead Penn State to a stunning comeback 35-21 victory over Northwestern, giving Joe Paterno Win No. 400.)

It was 180 starts between Penn State starting quarterbacks who went on to start in the NFL. Very (very) likely, there will be zero college starts between the next set of Penn State quarterbacks who make it in the NFL.

Let’s do the math: In between Collins and McGloin, there was Wally Richardson (20-5 as a starter), Mike McQueary (9-3), Kevin Thompson (18-6), Rashard Casey (6-7), Matt Senneca (4-3), Zack Mills (16-21), Michael Robinson (12-7), Anthony Morelli (18-8), Daryll Clark (22-4) and Robert Bolden (11-5). None made it in the NFL as a starting quarterback. Robinson lasted nine NFL seasons as a stalwart blocking fullback and special teams player. MRob completed just 1 of 2 passes in the NFL, a 28-yarder for Seattle in 2010, which gave him an exemplary 118.8 passing efficiency rating that season.

Richardson played one regular-season game for the Baltimore Ravens in 1998, completing one of two passes for a yard, and ran once for no gain. In 2000, Thompson played one game at QB for Cleveland and completed his only pass attempt for eight yards. Thompson ran once and fumbled the ball, but it was recovered.

That’s it. Yeah, that surprises McGloin, too. 

“You wouldn’t think that would happen in a Division I program for that long of a time,” McGloin said. “After Kerry, there were a lot of talented guys who went through that program. Talent is always going to be at Penn State at every single position.”

“It took Bill O’Brien and Charlie Fisher to get there, to give me the keys, to lead me,” he said, crediting his 2012 Penn State head coach and quarterback coach, respectively. “They taught me things that I didn’t even know existed. They prepared me and I went out and performed. Now I see how it happened. That senior year made it so much easier for me to transition into the NFL, which is the reason I’m still here.”

HIS OWN McMAN

It’s time to give McGloin his props, here and now. As an undrafted rookie in 2013, he started six games for the Raiders. OB and Fish were nowhere to be found at that point. In his very first pro start, McGloin threw two first-quarter touchdown passes and finished with 197 yards and three TDs in a 28-23 win over Houston – the team that O’Brien will be leading as an NFL rookie head coach.

Still, there was a bit of doubt whether McGloin’s stay on the West Coast was going to be for the proverbial cup of coffee. 

After all, McGloin had entered camp with the deck stacked against him. Also on the roster were 11-year veteran Matt Schaub; seventh-year journeyman Trent Edwards; and 2014 second-round pick Derek Carr, who threw for 12,843 yards and 113 touchdowns as a three-year starter at Fresno State.

But McGloin put on a clinic in the preseason, completing 38 of 69 passes for 471 yards, with four TD passes and just one interception. His 10-yard touchdown run against Minnesota almost won the game. He led a game-ending 13-play, 68-yard scoring drive for a 27-26 win over Detroit. The next week against Green Bay, he led two TD drives – both under two minutes, both over 55 yards – for Oakland’s only scores. And he sealed his roster spot in the preseason finale versus Seattle, completing 10 of 19 passes for 109 yards and a TD. 

“At the end of the day you have to perform,” McGloin said. “It’s a performance-based business. Like any other job, regardless if you’re an NFL quarterback or not, if you don’t perform in your work you’re not going to have a job very long.”

Collins’ career seemingly lasted forever and went in every which way possible.

He was picked No. 5 in the 1995 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers and over the next 16 seasons played for five teams – including the Raiders. He appeared in five Pro Bowls, played in an NFC championship game with Carolina and the Super Bowl (a loss to Baltimore) with the New York Giants.

He was up and down, in and out of football, on the front page for 196 TD passes and on the back page for off-the-field fumbles.

WHAT IT TAKES

But, ultimately, Collins had what it took to be an NFL starter and star. McGloin, once a starter, understands his role. He also understands what it takes to play in the NFL. If Hackenberg asked, this is what McGloin said he would tell him about making it in pro football as a quarterback. 

“NFL staffs – GMs, owners, coaches – they notice everything that you do,” McGloin said. “There’s always someone watching. That’s what you have to understand, whether it be in the film room, in team meetings, on the practice field -- they’re watching everything. They’re watching every practice, they’re watching how you interact, they’re watching if you’re a positive person – especially at the quarterback position.

“You need to be intelligent, in terms of, ‘Can I pick up a system fast? Do I know what I’m doing with the ball? How is my decision-making, my timing, my accuracy?’ All of those things are so important for the quarterback spot and making an NFL roster.”

Then there’s talent, of course. Just 13 games into his college career, Hackenberg – at 6-4, 234 pounds virtually the same size Collins was as a fifth-year senior in 1994 -- has that in spades. But, says McGloin, that alone does not an NFL quarterback make.

“A big part of it is how you respond to things happening around you,” McGloin said. “Are you going to show up every day and bust your tail? Or are you going to rely solely on your talent? How prepared you are, how you’ll react to things. That’s true with life in general – it’s all on you and how you respond to the challenges around you.”

CHRISTIAN IN THE LIONS’ DEN

Hackenberg has certainly passed the test in regard to challenges.

Despite his status as the nation’s No. 1 high school quarterback, he stayed the course with Penn State and honored his commitment while staring at a slate of NCAA sanctions. Then, when O’Brien left, Hackenberg – a young but honorable man of his word – stayed again. 

It’s that presence, in the pocket and of mind, that truly separates Hackenberg from the pack. That and no matter what happens – like throwing two Gaelic picks – the ability stay confident. It's a McGloinian characteristic, to be sure.

“It’s the same approach I’ve always had, you know,” said McGloin. “Just do what I’ve always done. I haven’t lost any confidence. You can believe me when I say that.” 

He chuckled. It was the laugh of a Penn State quarterback in the NFL.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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