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Penn State’s Matt McGloin to Make His XFL Debut: ‘It’s Perfect Timing’

by on February 06, 2020 7:15 PM

Opportunity knocked for Matt McGloin over a year ago. Three times.

The AAF called. The Alliance of American Football.

Again. Again. And again.

Each time McGloin said no. He knew that something better was out there.

“It wasn’t where I wanted to take my career at that point,” he was saying this week. “I knew there were stories and rumors that the XFL would start up again.

“Throughout my football career, I like to think I’ve made some pretty good decisions along the way. The AAF wasn’t where I was at with my life and my career. It turned out to be the right decision.”

So, he continued to do what Matt McGloin does best:

Rise and grind. 

That’s how he ended up as the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback and offensive leader in 2012, very likely the most important season of Penn State football. Ever. He threw for over 270 yards per game, 24 TDs and just five interceptions that season, leading the heavily-sanctioned Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record.

It’s how he went from an undrafted free agent to the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, throwing for three TDs and beating his old coach Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans in his first NFL start. Ever.

It’s how he managed four seasons in The League, with his time with the Raiders followed by short stints with the Eagles, Texans and the Chiefs.

And it’s how he started to transition to a sports broadcasting career in the fall of 2019, working the sidelines for Jack, Steve and the Penn State Radio Network, and doing midweek features and post-game reports for GoPSUSports.

Matt McGloin never quits.

“I always knew that my playing journey wasn’t over,” he admits. “But I never had any regrets. When I wasn’t playing, I wasn’t sitting there thinking what could have been. I made the most of every opportunity I was given and I worked as hard as I could every single day.”

AUTUMN IN SCRANTON

Flash back to an autumn afternoon several months ago back in Scranton. He kissed wife Bailey — a former Penn State cheerleader and current physician's assistant; yes, she's beautiful, bright and caring  — and baby Marshall John, born on Valentine’s Day 2019, good-bye and headed out the door.

McGloin, as was his habit, was off to throw the football and get in an outdoor workout. Waiting for the NFL. Waiting for an XFL…the XFL. Waiting for his next chance — beyond the AAF and beyond a stellar broadcast career that will eventually come.

Waiting for brother John.

As part of the process Matt often headed over to the old field, not far from home, where he first learned the game of football. Played pee-wee football. Threw rockets and, I’m sure, barked pint-sized orders.

Often, McGloin would go to that field on Jackson Street in the late afternoon and wait for John to show. “Sometimes it’s hard to find guys to run routes and guys to meet you for a catch, you know what I mean?” McGloin asks. “John’s been awesome. He’s helped me out a ton.”

Jackson Street is Scranton. There’s St. Patrick’s Rectory and Bernie’s Tavern Bar. Vitali’s Market and a Family Dollar Store. And the McGloin brothers throwing the football as the sun set on a fall evening — but not quite yet on Matt’s pro football career. 

You need to know this about the McGloins of Scranton, Pennsylvania: Father Paul, mother Catherine, sons Paul, John and Matthew James. They’re tough people. Love each other. Support each other. Competitive as hell. Loyal to friends and family to the end. Are knee-deep in sports. Son Paul is a baseball coach, with a baseball academy, and is a pro scout. John is a coach, too — and successful architect, with a degree from Lehigh (Matt almost went there, too) and a member of Northeast Business Journal’s “Top 20 Under 40.”

They have been there every step of the way for Matt, through West Scranton High, where he threw for over 5,400 yards and 58 TDs, leading his team to two district titles; was the basketball team captain; and hit over .400 and was 7-0 as a pitcher as a high school senior.

And through Penn State, where he joined the team as a walk-on who quickly impressed Joe Paterno, who called him that “McGroin kid from Scranton.” Kind of appropriate, since — I’m being honest here — Matt could be a bit of dick back then, determined to prove himself. He also had balls on the playing field that no one could match.

The McGloins cherished Matt’s days at Penn State, from the time he fought his way up the depth chart through a handful of picks in the Outback Bowl, to when he earned the job as the undisputed starter on Day One under O’Brien. McGloin knew the playbook inside and out, teaching himself the offense with plays sketched on small index cards and memorizing signals he practiced calling in the mirror. The other QBs in the room never had a chance.

Amazingly, that was nearly eight years ago.

FIELD OF DREAMS

It was against that backdrop Matt was at his old Pop Warner field that fall day, impatiently waiting for John to get off of work at Apollo Group, where he manages multi-million construction projects, and run some receiver routes. Matt was working on a project of his own: staying in shape, in hopes of getting a call that was not from the AAF.

“There was that one day we were going to meet at the field for a throw and he came after work,” recalls Matt, chuckling. “He gets out of the car, he has work clothes on. I was just yelling at him.”

Matt laughs. When he tells the story, he gets it.  He knows he’s a hard-ass.

“I was yelling at him, ‘Don’t just stand there, face in like this,’ ” he says with a big laugh. “ ‘Why are you wearing jeans?’ ”

At Matt remembers, John shouted back: “I just got out of work, I don’t see anyone else here helping you out.”

The field was all of a block from where the McGloin boys grew up. Some things never change. Matt, now 30 and still expecting perfection, was being hard on John. But no harder than he has been on himself for the past two decades. 

And make no mistake: Matt has worked hard for this Sunday, when he will take the field in MetLife Stadium as the starting quarterback for the New York Guardians of the XFL, when they face the Tampa Bay Vipers on the first weekend of the rebooted league.

“When the XFL reached out to me, I knew it was something that I would do,” he recalls. “Everything had to fit into place and fortunately for me, playing for Kevin Gilbride in New York — where he’s had a ton of success — and New York is less than two hours from my home, where Bailey and I had a baby and started a family. Then to have my brothers and my friends being able to drive a short distance to me play…well, everything fit together perfectly.”

The Guardians summoned him to New York early last fall while McGloin was making the commute from Scranton to State College a couple times a week to embark on his new career as a broadcaster. Each XFL team had the opportunity to select the quarterback they wanted. A free pick.

The New York Guardians wanted Matt McGloin.

Gilbride is New York’s head coach. A former NFL head coach with the Chargers and a longtime offensive coordinator for the New York Giants, he has two Super Bowl rings. He’s coached Eli Manning and Hall of Famer Warren Moon. He knows talent. He knows leaders.

He wanted Matt McGloin.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

At 2 p.m. this Sunday, on national TV (Fox), McGloin will return to the gridiron and spotlight. It’s been a few years since he played, but he’s still in shape, still sharp. He’s never stopped working for this moment. Again.

When McGloin played for the Raiders, his message year after year was that it’s a job and it’s a business and if you’re a pro, you do everything right. Control the controllables. Like his old coach used to say, "Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves."

But in talking on the phone with McGloin this week — he was in New Jersey, where he'll live during the season with Bailey and Marshall — the XFL means much more than a paycheck.

“It’s perfect timing,” he admits. “If you look back at my career, I’ve always been around when the time is right. Now, for me, this is a way to compete again. And hopefully have fun doing it.”

Unlike the AAF, it looks like the XFL will provide reliable paychecks for days and weeks and months and maybe years ahead: League founder Vince McMahon, of WWE fame, has pledged a half-billion dollars to its success. And Oliver Luck — former college and NFL quarterback; Andrew’s dad; former West Virginia AD; and NFL Europe, MLS and NCAA top-level executive — is the commissioner.

“I’ve met him, he came around to practice,” McGloin said. “He believes the league will succeed. I do, too.”

HARD KNOCKS

It looks like the XFL could be around for awhile. And, by the looks of it, so could McGloin.

Opportunity knocked for him. Again. C'mon, to be honest, there's a bit of a smh there: That damn McGloin.

He answered. Again. The XFL was made for him.

You should know this by now: Matt McGloin never quits.



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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