Penn State Football: McSorley Ready For Next Chapter As Rookie Camp Begins
OWING MILLS, Md. — A small white church surrounded by an unmowed lawn sits inconspicuously a half hour's drive from downtown Baltimore, a sign rising from the tangled grass, inviting visitors inside to find their faith, or to strengthen it.
Not far down that same road an equally inconspicuous driveway weaves it ways past perfectly trimmed hedges and grass cut tight enough to putt on. As you round the final bend the Baltimore Ravens’ football facility rises into the sky, an impressive structure that looks more the part of a golf resort than the intellectual hub of an NFL team.
Called “The Castle”, its long brown and grey brick facade is as imposing as the two security checkpoints to even enter it. On the field beyond, the Ravens’ rookie class practices to the sounds of whistles, the same sounds they have heard for the entirety of their football careers.
And yet these whistles mean more as lifelong dreams are realized, and as those same dreams are put on the line. Hard work got you to this point, even harder work will be required to stay there.
In the case of former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, hard work to simply see the field.
But even he, the quiet Virginia native just over an hour from his hometown, has to smile when he thinks about where he is and how much work it has taken to get to this point.
“It’s a ton of emotion,” McSorley said on Friday, looking back on the moment he was drafted. “It’s a long process from the end of the season. There are so many different steps in the process and everything is so exact and there is so much pressure.”
“They’re looking at everything you do from the combine to the Senior Bowl, so there’s a lot of pressure at ever single step. But overall, on draft day, hearing your name called, that’s something as a little kid, I would watch the draft and that’s something that you always dream about.”
McSorley says he doesn’t think about it much, or even at all, but he has entered a new chapter in his career that will play out far differently than the previous ones. He is unknown, a local Baltimore media member struggling to remember his name beyond “the kid that played at Penn State” in a passing conversation with a colleague. And by all accounts unless he has a spectacular training camp or Lamar Jackson is injured, McSorley will see the field in limited capacities, if at all.
Being unknown, that’s something that McSorley is indifferent to and somewhat prefers. Even his fame at Penn State was not, by all accounts, something he capitalized on. He’s just a guy playing football, and lots of people have shown up to watch him do it. He and Saquon Barkley both seemingly unaware of their standing in a town that often worshiped the ground they walked on. Perhaps that ignorance to their benefit.
As far as never playing? It’s not something that he thinks about, but the concept isn’t entirely foreign to him. His answers come in a different sort of tense: “If I’m called on,” “Whatever they need me to do,” “Just want to bring value.” Those are inherent nods to a new truth about his career, that he is transitioning from a record-breaking quarterback to a player who may or may not see the field, playing at a position of high scrutiny and few opportunities.
He once shouldered the expectations of an entire football program, now he’s just a small piece in a very large puzzle.
The cost of our dreams, but a price worth paying to reach them.
“There’s always going to be some sort of expectations,” McSorley added. “I guess just not necessarily as much as in the past. I always put a lot of pressure on myself to be able to come out and execute at an extremely high level, so it doesn’t necessarily feel like there is less pressure just because of the standard I hold myself to and where I want to be at.”
Despite all of the pressure and change, McSorley hasn’t forgotten to enjoy what is undeniably as massive achievement. He is an NFL player, the outcome of defeating a host of obstacles that were stacked firmly against him. As he hugged his family following the call telling him he was about to be drafted, it was a moment they all had been waiting for, and while McSorley will reap the most immediate benefits, a dream they all had a stake in.
A dream you can’t help but enjoy as it comes true. A chance, after everything, to finally relax.
But for how long?
“A couple days,” McSorley said. “That day you feel the relief of it and a little bit the next day, but then it really is getting back into it. I only had a couple days before I got here so I wanted to make sure I came in, in the best shape possible. But even laying in bed, driving in cars, trying to appreciate it as much as you can and be able to take that time to appreciate where you’re at and appreciate the magnitude of it.
“You’re an NFL player in an NFL building wearing Baltimore Ravens’ colors. It’s one of those things that not a lot of people get to experience, so try and enjoy it and take it in for a minute and get back to work.”
The immediate story is a football one. The nuts and bolts of McSorley’s career will play out over the next few years in a way that he will only have some control over. Given the chance to play he will make plays and mistakes. Which of those win out only time will tell.
The other story -the real story- is that of faith, both the religious , showcased by McSorley’s tattoos, and a faith in himself. McSorley’s career is a laundry list of being told he was too short, not strong enough, not big enough and unable to see his dream of a chance in the NFL realized.
And yet he wasn’t any of those things. The result of unwavering belief in one's self. Unwavering faith in what you can do if you really believe it. The kind of faith that drives a career.
“It wasn’t just this last six months of work, it was 18 years of everything I’ve put into football.”
The journey ahead will be difficult, and McSorley’s faith will be tested. But there is a church just down the road if he ever needs it, doors open, ready to remind him how he got this far.
In the meanwhile he will just work on getting the new hallways figured out.
"You know where you're going?" a Ravens' staff person asked him.
"I think so, yeah," he answered, walking down a corridor, and towards his future.