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Penn State Football: ‘Professor’ Trace McSorley Zooms into Class; Here are His 10 Lessons

by on April 05, 2020 6:00 PM

Trace McSorley came to class the other day.

By Zoom, of course.

The former Nittany Lions star quarterback, now with the Baltimore Ravens, was a guest last week in the Penn State “Introduction to the Sports Industry” class I teach.

As you would guess, attendance was especially high that day, despite a 9:05 a.m. kickoff. Most of the 100-plus students online that day from California to Florida to Boston were also on campus 17 months ago when McSorley last shined for Penn State.

They know what he did at PSU, as one of them:

A Big Ten title, a 2016 upset of No. 2 Ohio State, the epic game-winning drive at Iowa, a 31-9 record as a starter (making him 86-14, counting high school), 107 TDs and over 11,500 yards as a transformational passer and runner. A leader.

McSorley spent 2019 as a rookie with the Baltimore Ravens, sticking with the squad as a savvy and skilled do-everything backup after being drafted in the sixth round. The Ravens finished 14-2 as McSorley spent his days learning under a pair of transformational talents in their own right, quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III, both of whom were Heisman Trophy winners.

A month ago, McSorley was in Florida, getting ready for the 2020 NFL season. Then, the NBA canceled its season, and he “got on a plane really quick and came back up to Northern Virginia,” where his family lives, just 15 minutes from the Washington Redskins training facility.

That’s where he is now, living with his folks Andrea and Rick, and his sister Micaela, a Penn State senior who will be headed to law school to be a sports attorney. He spends a lot of time in the family’s gym in the basement, and on his cell, keeping in touch with his old Penn State teammates and the Ravens staff, especially QB coach James Urban.

He has also checked in with his former QB coaches as well, notably Joe Moorhead and Ricky Rahne, as well as Penn State head coach James Franklin.

As always, McSorley brought his A game when he Zoomed in with the class.

An excellent student as an accounting major at Penn State, McSorley spent his fifth fall at Penn State taking such classes as news writing and multi-media journalism, to get a better handle on how the other side works and thinks, and to prep for a possible broadcast career after his NFL career is done. His savvy showed.

The following is an edited version of his hour-long session with students. (And yes, this will be on the final.)

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHEN THE NFL WILL PLAY GAMES.

“It looks like that everything is definitely going to get pushed back. If not, you know, at least OTA’s (organized team activities) will get canceled and we’ll end up just going back for training camp in August. Right now, I’m just waiting to see what is going happen and when we’re going to be able to get back and get rolling. Right now, we’re kind of in a pseudo lockout. No one’s allowed in the (Ravens) building.”

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2. THE FLU SPREADS FAST IN NFL LOCKER ROOMS.

“Even being in the locker room around guys can be hard. You know, every year a guy gets the flu. It definitely circulates throughout the team. Last year we had a time when Lamar missed practice because he had the stomach flu, then it went to another guy and then we had a few weeks where it was being passed around. Guys ended up getting sick and missing practice.

“So, there’s definitely that aspect to it. If you have a thing that’s as contagious as this virus going around right now, it would 100% possible that it would be passed around a locker room in no time. You’re just in such close contact with people like that all the time.”

3. PLAYING IN AN EMPTY STADIUM WOULD BE “WEIRD.”

“It would be weird if we got to a point where we’re playing in empty stadium. I just think back to the energy we were able to draw off the crowd at Penn State. You want your stadium to be like that; that energy you’re able to draw from the crowd is huge. It gets your adrenaline up and you are able to feed off of that, especially with a Whiteout, and use it on the field. If you’re in a game in an empty stadium, then it is just you and the other team. You don’t have the crowd noise to deal with it.”

4. FOOTBALL CAN BE A CUT-THROAT BUSINESS.

“The craziest part of the business is just how fast someone can be gone, whether it be through a trade or through just getting cut. You’re at your locker one day, talking to a guy and the next day he’s not there anymore, and you’re asking, ‘Where did he go?’ ‘Oh, he just got cut.’

“You start camp with about 90 guys and eventually you end up with 53 on the roster. I thought once the season started, all the changes would be done. But even as the season progressed, guys were being traded and guys were being cut. You end up signing guys off the street in the middle of the season based off what the team needs.

“Practice squad guys would be there for a week and they’re gone for three weeks. Then they come back for a week, then they’re gone for another three weeks because of what the front office needs. It depends on who we’re playing the next week: If the team you’re playing has a lot of receivers we’d have more receivers on practice squad. If the next team is really strong on defense, we’d add another couple of defensive guys that week. You know it’s a business, but you don’t you don’t expect it to be as cut-throat.”

5. MAKE YOURSELF VALUABLE (even it means playing on special teams).

“I never blocked anyone a day in my life, then I get thrown in there having to try to stop some big guy who is rushing while I’m in there on punt pro(tection) or blocking a linebacker on kickoff return when the dude’s got a 40-yard head start. That was different for me — to just throw my body in there. Sometimes it worked out well and sometimes it didn’t.”

6. LEARN FROM YOUR CO-WORKERS.

“It’s funny. I was the only one in the (quarterback) room who didn’t have a Heisman. From my perspective, it was really kind cool to be able to sit with those guys every single day and try and learn from them. Being able to be around those two guys was awesome.

“Obviously, Lamar had an MVP season and everyone kind of got on that wave. It was cool to see all that unfold. I’m sitting in the room with him every day and able to see how he’s able to interact with guys on the team and how great his leadership ability is.

“Then there’s a guy like RG3, who was rookie of the year and was going to be the guy who was going finally bring the Redskins back. Then he gets an injury and things kind of unfold. Unfortunately for him, he was out of the league after six years. Then he clawed his way back in. It was great learning from him, and getting his perspective after being a star, then lost it and is fighting to get it back.”

7. COLLEGE ATHLETES SHOULD PROFIT FROM THEIR NAME, IMAGE AND LIKENESS.

“If something like that had been around or during my time at Penn State, I absolutely would have done it…Now, you actually see how much money you miss out on as a college player when doing those kinds of things. I think there is a huge market out there for it. I’m glad to see it will happen.

“It will be interesting to see how it plays out in the locker room, because obviously there are guys like (Marcus) Allen or Saquon (Barkley) who are stars on the team and also with big personalities. They would obviously make more than a freshman coming in or a guy who may not be very well known. I think it would play out fine. Everyone kind of knows who the top guys on the team are. Thinking about the guys who are there now, a guy like Cliff (quarterback Sean Clifford) would know probably be one of the guys who would be able to cash in big on that vs. maybe an offensive lineman — which is kind of unfortunate, but that’s just how it would play out.

“I remember when I was in college, we did those throwback uniforms one year. They ended up auctioning them off. Every single player obviously would have loved to have kept that jersey to hang it up in their house and have the memory of the first time Penn State did that with the uniforms. I think Saquon’s jersey went for like $10,000 in an auction, something like that. We were trying to bid for mine and get it, but the price got too high. We weren’t able to make it and the guy who got it found me and had me sign it. In the back of my mind, I’m like, ‘Man, it sucks that someone had enough money to be able to get that, and I can’t keep something that brings such a strong memory.’”

8. AT PENN STATE, NOTHING WAS BETTER THAN BEATING OHIO STATE.

“A favorite memory would be the Ohio State game in 2016. After the game when everyone was rushing onto the field it was just kind of mayhem. It was such a cool moment to be a part of something like that, where you literally have the entire field covered in white and you could celebrate with the fans that were on the field. I remember jumping up and down with a bunch of people that I didn’t know who.

“I tried to drive home from the stadium, and I usually would drive right through downtown. That night, it was just a mass of people. I didn't get back to my house until it was like 1:30.”

9. THE HARBAUGH BROS. ARE NOT ALIKE (John coaches the Ravens, Jim coaches Michigan).

“I love my quarterback coach and (head) coach John Harbaugh is a really great coach. He’s a great players coach — just kind of easy to get along with. He’s very intense, and he demands a lot out of the players, but he’s also a fun guy to be around. Admittedly, that wasn’t what I was expecting because of my interactions with his brother at Michigan.”

10. DREAMS DO COME TRUE — IF YOU ARE RELENTLESS.

“I started playing football when I was 9 years old. Even before that, I always dreamed of playing in the NFL. It’s really been kind of a fight every single day. You scratch and claw to be able to make it happen. A lot of people have goals and dreams that they have to change for whatever reason. I’ve been fortunate that I have been able to achieve those dreams.

“I remember going to training camps at Redskins Park when I was a kid and wanting to get autographs from players and seeing how just how cool it was to be that close to those guys. Then, last year in training camp with the Ravens, I was on the other side of those lines. That realization of what had happened was really cool.”



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. 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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