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Back on Campus: Four Downs with Former Penn State QB Trace McSorley

Former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley was back on campus this past week. And, in a lot of ways, as he covered a lot of ground with good friends and former teammates Grant Haley and Saquon Barkley, McSorley was man about town.

McSorley was in State College for Sunday’s Central PA Chapter of the National Football Foundation annual awards event, honoring a multitude of footballers from regional high schools and colleges. He was the featured speaker at the luncheon at The Penn Stater, attended by over 500 people.

But in the days leading up to the banquet, accompanied by his wife Kasey — who, along with her sister, Madison Morano, played field hockey at Penn State — McSorley made like a returning alum.

He and Kasey attended the Zach Bryan concert in the Bryce Jordan Center. He golfed at Toftrees with Barkley and Haley. He met with some familiar football program faces, like strength coach Chuck Losey, chief of staff Kevin Threlkel, head of personnel Andy Frank and assistant coach Terry Smith.

He attended Pro Day in Holuba Hall, with a host of other former Penn State players. He and Barkley, his former backfield mate and new Philadelphia Eagle, also lifted weights in Lasch Building, and addressed the current Nittany Lion football team. And the guys hit the downtown Champs one night, long past Kasey’s bedtime.

McSorley certainly left his mark as a Nittany Lion. A two-time captain, he was 31-9 as a starting QB in 2016-18 and still holds 13 records at Penn State. Among them: most passing yards in a season (3,614, 2016), career touchdowns (107; 77 passing, 30 rushing) and career 200-yard passing games (28). His appearance at the event was a full-circle moment for McSorley, a stalwart accounting student who was the chapter’s 2018 Penn State recipient.

Prior to Sunday’s speech, McSorley met with a handful of media types, and shared his thoughts on a range of topics, including the evolution of James Franklin into a player’s coach, his own football future and the iconic moment of an epic Penn State career. He’s been in the NFL since 2019, with Baltimore, Arizona, New England, Chicago and Pittsburgh. Here are McSorley’s thoughts on:

1. Current Penn State quarterback Drew Allar: “Drew is coming along well. He was able to get that first year under his belt, where you get to experience those ups and downs, and lick those wounds a little bit. Now he has a new OC and a new system that he’s learning. He needs to stays focused on taking it one day at a time — I think that’s something Coach Franklin instilled in the team while I was here – and continue to get better each day.

“Drew has all the talent. He knows he has that. Now, he has to be that guy who puts it all together and starts bringing guys along, from the leadership standpoint, and elevate the play of guys around him. He has a really good mindset and outlook on everything. I think he’ll be good.”

2. McSorley’s future in the NFL: “Still staying in shape. I’m still, obviously, hoping to get a chance to play. We’ve had some conversations with a couple of teams. We have to let some things play out and see how it goes. I’m staying ready for whenever the next opportunity comes. When that shows up, I’m going to be ready to grab it by the horns and go all the way with it.”

3. Changes in Franklin, since they both came to Penn State in 2014 (McSorley and Haley were both verbal commits to Franklin and Vanderbilt prior to CJF being hired by PSU in January 2014): “It’s been funny kind of seeing him take on being a little more of a ‘player’s coach’ role. When he first got here, obviously he had to instill his culture. It was a little bit of ‘his way or the highway’ type of deal vs. now. I think he is very much more open to communicating with the players on the team, and being open to some changes here and there. We laugh and joke around about it.

“You see all the changes going on inside Lasch Building. All the old guys coming back are like, ‘Dang, I wish we had this. I wish we had that.’ I think he’s done a really good job of making the required changes, but still keeping the culture the same with Penn State in general — what Penn State football stood for for 80 years, since Joe Paterno was here. I think that hasn’t changed. He’s done a really good job of bringing Penn State into a little bit more of a modern era, but keeping the roots and everything the same.”

4. The defining moment of his 100 games as a starting quarterback, at Briar Woods High School in Virginia (where he was 55-5, with three state titles and four championship game appearances) and at Penn State (31-9). “You give me 100 games to pick one moment? There’s a lot there. (laughter). Off the top of my head, it would probably be the Iowa game and the touchdown to Juwan at the very end.”

(The game: On the road in a hostile Kinnick Stadium in 2017, fourth-ranked Penn State trailed Iowa 19-15 with 102 seconds remaining. McSorley drove the Nittany Lions down the field in 12 plays, completing 7 of 11 passes and also rushing for 12 yards. The game’s final play was a 7-yard TD strike through traffic from McSorley to Juwan Johnson in the end zone, with zero seconds left, to win 21-19.)

“That game as a whole personified who I am as a player. It’s never been easy. It’s been ugly at times. But the job gets done and, at the end of the day, it’s a results-driven business — and that’s what it’s about. I think overall, that play and that game would probably be the one that encapsulates me. If I had to pick one of me as a person, I would say that’s the one.”


In its 27 years, the Central PA Chapter of the NFF has awarded nearly $300,000 to more than 1,100 recipients. These were among the honorees on Sunday, presented under the direction of chapter president Sam Phillips:

Centre County high schools:  Eric Clark (Bald Eagle), Cameron D. Kubalak (Penns Valley) and Jake Hohenshelt (State College).

Colleges: Zach Beneder (Clarion), Coleman Bennett (Bucknell), Eddie Bierals (Saint Francis), Ian Brunner (Juniata), Mark Custer (Susquehanna), Alex Felkins (Penn State), Joe Kahn (Bloomsburg), Ian Plankenhorn (Lycoming), Joe Turek (Lock Haven) and Quinn Zinobile (Indiana, Pa.)

Lifetime Achievement: Steve Briggs (Susquehanna University), Bobby Douglas (Mifflin County football), Alison Krajewski (trainer at State High, St. Joseph’s Academy, Mifflin County H.S.), Bob Tonkin (administrator), Steve Wiser (Lycoming College), and officials Ronald Bacha, Kevin Doverspike, Tim Mahoney and Ed White.