Matt McGloin ’12 figured it was only a matter of time.
He had worked too hard, invested too much time, and overcome too many hurdles to see his professional career end while still in his 20s.
The Pennsylvania native walked on at Penn State, eventually earning a scholarship and becoming a fan favorite for his fiery demeanor and unwavering grit. McGloin maximized his time with the program, working his way up the depth chart, becoming the starter while leading the team through an inspiring and challenging 2012 season and quarterbacking Joe Paterno’s 409th win.
Then, after he went undrafted, he played his way into a starting role for the Oakland Raiders, throwing for 1,868 yards and 11 touchdowns in 13 games from 2013–16.
Seemingly, there was always somebody ahead of him on the depth chart, a never-ending series of obstacles to sidestep.
However, McGloin kept grinding, still believed, and continued to train while he searched for a roster spot with another team. He competed with himself this past year while out of the NFL, adding five or 10 pounds to his sets, or increasing his workout by a few reps.
Anything to get a little bit better.
Cameras weren’t rolling (he wasn’t doing this for an audience), and his future was unclear.
The entire time, though, McGloin couldn’t shake the feeling that another opportunity was surely on the horizon, right?
“To be honest with you, in the back of my mind, I didn’t believe my football career was over,” he said. “I didn’t know if I’d have another chance in the NFL or what would happen with the XFL. I didn’t know, but I didn’t feel like my career was over.”
He stayed positive and remained in shape, doing everything he could to be ready when his next chance arrived.
Last fall, he was proven right.
The opportunity came in the form of a new league with a familiar name, as McGloin was assigned in October to the New York Guardians of the rebooted XFL, which will feature a 10-game regular season starting this weekend.
“It’s definitely exciting to have the opportunity to continue to play this game at a high level, it’s something that I’ve always wanted,” McGloin said Friday, following a team practice.
“I’ve got some experience playing professional football, but I still believe I can get better as a quarterback, better as a player, and better as a leader. That’s my mindset, to improve every day and prove that I can go out there and win games, week in and week out.”
Back in the Huddle
Originally launched for one year in 2001, the XFL is the brainchild of WWE owner and entrepreneur Vince McMahon. The inaugural (and only) season featured some memorable highlights — years later, fans might still remember Rod Smart wearing “He Hate Me” on his jersey — as the league gave many fans their first glimpse of professional football beyond the NFL. Penn State fans might recall that Wally Richardson ’96, ’03g also played in the league, starting most games for the New York/New Jersey squad.
Now, the XFL is back, and so is McGloin, with the Guardians kicking off their season Sunday, hosting the Tampa Bay Vipers at 2 p.m. FOX will broadcast the contest from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Extra special for McGloin, who will wear No. 14, is that his family and friends can watch him play — MetLife Stadium is less than a two-hour drive from his home in Northeast Pennsylvania. Folks have been telling McGloin’s family that they’re heading to the game Sunday, and the proximity takes on even for more significance for McGloin and his wife, Bailey, after they welcomed their first child last year.
In all the excitement and preparation, it’s worth noting that Sunday’s season opener will be the first professional (regular season) action for McGloin since 2016. The last three seasons have seen him sign with a handful of NFL teams — he was briefly reunited with Bill O’Brien in Houston — though nothing stuck. He was with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018 and it looked like things had worked out, though a late roster cut abruptly changed that outlook.
McGloin figures Sunday will be exciting, and also that he’ll be nervous.
For him, that’s a good thing. It means he still cares about football, that he’s still passionate about the game, that he still craves the opportunity to lead a team.
It’s been a quick turnaround for McGloin and his teammates, and they all understand that. It helps to have a coach with nearly 40 years of experience, he said, mentioning Kevin Gilbride, who coached in the NFL for nearly a quarter-century after some time in college and a few seasons in the Canadian Football League.
Some of the XFL rule changes have been incorporated to make the game faster-paced than the NFL, while also giving teams more of an opportunity to come back. You can check out the complete list online. For McGloin, it means a team is never truly out of the game. For fans, it should translate into a product more conducive to television.
The Guardians have been posting some fun content to Twitter, and there are several videos that showcase McGloin during practice. Of all the Tier One quarterbacks in the XFL, McGloin holds the most extensive NFL experience — most QBs don’t have any experience beyond college and NFL practice squads — putting the former Nittany Lion in position to lead the Guardians to a title.
“Coach Gilbride chose me to be the quarterback here because I can make good decisions,” McGloin said. “I’m accurate and timely with the ball, and that’s the way I play the game. … They trust that I’m going to get us into the best possible play. I think that’s where my game has gotten better, understanding coverages and fronts. That’s what Coach Gilbride has seen out of me.”
McGloin said it’d be unfair to compare the team’s training camp to anything he experienced in the NFL, though communicating is still paramount. Most of the coaches and players don’t have history with one another, though McGloin said that’s what is so special about football.
“You meet different people and work with different people,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic journey so far.”
Penn State family
McGloin stayed busy in the fall, and if you thought you saw him roaming the sidelines at Beaver Stadium, you’re right. After attending the football team’s media day for a local outlet in August, Penn State Athletics asked McGloin to co-host a live postgame show from Beaver Stadium for the 2019 season.
From there, his role quickly expanded, and he spent the season as a sideline reporter for Penn State football, working directly with Steve Jones ’80 and Jack Ham ’71 during broadcasts. McGloin fit right in, looking and speaking the part of a seasoned analyst, also appearing in weekly video previews on the team’s social media channels that feature massive followings.
McGloin provided invaluable insight, teaming with feature content specialist and on-air talent Mitch Gerber to give a firsthand account of what Penn State’s coaches, players, and fans could expect week-to-week.
Speaking about the raucous atmosphere at Ohio State or the famed pink visitor’s locker room at Iowa gave McGloin a chance to discuss his playing career in a way that was always topical and timely, lending an authenticity that you can only get from a player who’s been there, done that.
“He provided a completely different dynamic,” Gerber said, adding that McGloin’s ability to explain complex ideas in a way that makes sense for the average fan is similar to Tony Romo’s approach.
That comparison is notable, considering the former Dallas Cowboy quarterback has quickly ascended the broadcasting ranks — he reportedly made more than $3 million last year — and multiple outlets will likely compete over him this year after his contract with CBS expired.
It was fun being back on the field, McGloin happily acknowledged, and he speaks with the thrill of a fan when mentioning the partnership with Jones and Ham: “Those guys are awesome,” he said. “It was definitely a lot of fun and a great season at Penn State. I was really happy to be part of it and watch it up close.”
Part of what makes the broadcasting duo so iconic is that they’re intertwined with Penn State football, and yet they’re also approachable.
McGloin is much the same way.
He’s attended alumni chapter events over the years, with his likable personality and easy demeanor winning over crowds. He definitely has a presence — like any accomplished quarterback — while also remaining welcoming.
He also recognizes the importance of the Penn State network.
Shortly after joining the Guardians, McGloin got connected with the Alumni Association’s New York City Chapter, attending a recent alumni event with Bailey and a few team representatives in October.
Set in the city’s meatpacking district, Chapter President Linde Miles ’09 said the happy hour-style event was designed for young Penn Staters to meet fellow alumni and network. It was the first time that Miles met McGloin, and she was impressed, even if the QB wasn’t what she was expecting.
The Guardians’ senior director of marketing emailed her and said that a Penn State graduate with the XFL was interested in attending the event, and he asked if that was possible.
Miles’ reaction? Sure, and she figured it was someone with an administrative position or similar role. Instead, in strolled McGloin, who attended with Bailey and a few team representatives.
Miles instantly recognized McGloin from his days as a Nittany Lion. She had graduated by the time he became the starter, though she returned for a few games in 2010 and 2011 and saw him play at Beaver Stadium.
“We were floored that he would want to come out to an event for our chapter,” Miles said. “Everyone was kind of starstruck, including myself. He was so down-to-earth. They were all really welcoming and wanted to get to know the chapter and what we do.”
“It was awesome,” McGloin said of attending the NYC Chapter event. “The Penn State family has always been great to me, and I can’t thank them enough for their support over the years.
“I’ve always said this and have always felt this way: It takes a different person to be a Penn State student-athlete, and a different person to be part of the Penn State family. It’s a special group. The longer I’m out of school, the more I realize how special and important it is. My love for the University continues to grow, and I’m very lucky and very blessed to have attended Penn State.”
The NYC Chapter is planning to attend the Guardians’ home game on April 4, and you can learn more and buy tickets online. Miles worked with the Guardians to secure a discounted group rate, and $3 from every ticket will benefit the chapter’s scholarship fund. Additionally, the first 20 fans to purchase tickets will receive entry into a postgame autograph signing with McGloin and some teammates, and Miles figures it should be a really fun day.
She spoke highly of McGloin, saying “I think his leadership was paramount to the (2012) team continuing to go and push through, and I’m excited to see that leadership again here in the city.”
McGloin is similarly thrilled.
After spending most of his time in the NFL on the West Coast — away from his family and friends — he’s returned home to play in one of the biggest markets in the country for a league that seems primed for a lengthier run this time around.
So no, McGloin’s not done yet, and maybe not for a while. He’s only a few months past his 30th birthday, is still in great shape, and now has an opportunity to quarterback a team to a championship.
More than anything, McGloin has just wanted a chance, and now he has it.
“I was preparing, and now I’m ready for this opportunity,” McGloin said. “I felt like something would come along, I felt like something would happen. That’s always been me. I continued to believe in the process, and I stayed positive, and I’m ready for Week 1.”
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