Everyone told the competitive kid from Virginia that he was too small to be a college quarterback. A young Trace McSorley was recruited out of Briar Woods High School as a cornerback. McSorley isn’t the type to give up though, so when Vanderbilt came calling for a quarterback, McSorley said yes. James Franklin saw something in him that other coaches did not; grit, determination, the heart of a lion, and a will to win. It was only natural that when James Franklin took the head coaching job at Penn State, McSorley followed him to Happy Valley. McSorley, it turns out, has the heart of a Nittany Lion.
McSorley Becomes the Winningest Quarterback in Penn State History
With Saturday’s win against Rutgers, McSorley now holds the Penn State record for most wins as a starter with 30. That kid that was told he was too small to play quarterback at a collegiate level? Well, he’s now the winningest quarterback in Penn State history.
McSorley Knows How to Win
Briar Woods High School went to the Virgina State Championship game four years in a row. All four times Trace McSorley was leading the team. McSorley led Briar Woods to a win three out of those four championship runs. As a freshman, McSorley threw for 2,201 yards and 19 touchdowns, in addition to 165 rushing yards and six touchdowns. That season he guided the Falcons to a 13-2 season, winning his first state championship. Before he left high school the future Nittany Lion amassed more than 12,000 yards of total offense, 150 career touchdowns. He helped get those wins on defense, too. During his junior and senior seasons he had approximately 100 tackles and eight interceptions.
If you look at the numbers and knew nothing else about McSorley it would be a no brainer for coaches. Four year starter. Four trips to the Virginia state championship game. Three state titles. Over 12,000 yards of total offense. The stats spoke for themselves, but then they saw his height and weight. Coaches wrote him off at quarterback and wanted him at cornerback. The quarterback that owns almost all of Briar Woods High School’s passing records was not wanted as a quarterback, but he wanted to play quarterback.
Road to the Top
After Franklin decided to leave Vanderbilt to go home to Pennsylvania and be the Penn State head coach, fans got their first look at McSorley. Penn State already had their quarterback in Christian Hackenberg. Hackenberg was a highly recruited five-star quarterback out of Fork Union Military Academy. He was the leader of the recruiting class and became the leader of the Nittany Lions. Trace McSorley was the total opposite of the pro-style Hackenberg. Fans were naturally skeptical of the barely six-foot tall McSorley. McSorley redshirted his freshman year at Penn State because Hackenberg had two more seasons to play.
When Hackenberg went out of the 2015 Bowl game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury with the Nittany Lions down against Georgia, McSorley stepped up. Penn State fans saw the future in the second half of that game. McSorley looked poised and ready. He looked like a winner. Georgia ended up winning the TaxSlayer Bowl 27-14, but McSorley passed for 142 yards and two touchdowns. He rallied the team around him in that game and has had the respect in the locker room ever since.
Happy Birthday Trace
Trace McSorley was named starter on his 21st birthday, just days before the 2016 season opener against Kent State. The first four games as the starter for McSorley were up and down, he threw three interceptions in those first four games and went 2-2. After the loss to Michigan, McSorley led Penn State to an overtime win against Minnesota in Beaver Stadium and didn’t look back. He led the team to nine straight wins to finish out the season, one of which was a three-point win against second-ranked Ohio State. He capped that streak off with a win in the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin. The miracle season would end with a loss to USC in one of the most memorable Rose Bowl games of all time.
“He is the captain of the ship. He keeps us going.”
McSorley became Penn State’s Superman that season. Wherever he goes, the rest of the team follows. Running back Miles Sanders praised his quarterback earlier this season stating, “He is the captain of the ship. He keeps us going.”
Veteran Signal Caller
Entering 2017, McSorley was ready to live up to the hype. He had Saquon Barkley beside him, Mike Gesicki finally learned to catch the ball, and DaeSean Hamilton was back. With those weapons, his own will to win, and his legs, McSorley led Penn State to seven straight wins to start the season. The Nittany Lions had two losses in 2017 by a combined four points. With two full seasons under his belt, McSorley started breaking records. He ended the 2017 season with a 28-game touchdown pass streak, which would be the longest in FBS entering 2018.
In his final season in Blue and White, McSorley has made sure to cherish every moment. He has dealt with a right knee injury that has forced him to wear a brace for the first time. Penn State’s Superman, though, is not going down without a fight. This may not be the season that fans expected, but McSorley is continuing to do everything in his power to make it great. He may have lost his touchdown pass streak, but he owns almost every other quarterback record at Penn State. He also sits behind only Drew Brees (106) and JT Barrett (147) in Big Ten history for touchdowns responsible for. It is possible that he will move into second place, beating out Drew Brees, one of his heroes, before his time at Penn State is done.
In addition to being a great quarterback, tough, and a winner, he is also humble. When he broke yet another record this season, but lost the game he made it known that the individual records don’t matter right now. The team matters and winning for this team matters. He is a true leader and one that deserves every record and win that comes his way.
Passing the Greats
With this win against Rutgers, McSorley passes Heisman Torphy runner-up Chuck Fusina, Todd Blackledge, and Tony Sacca as the all time winningest Penn State quarterback. Saturday’s win gives McSorley 30 wins as a starter for Penn State, breaking a tie with Fusina, Blackledge, and Sacca at 29 wins each.
Passing those legends is a big accomplishment, but if McSorley doesn’t finish the season on his own terms and doesn’t feel like he did enough for this team it won’t matter much to him. That is what really puts him in the class with the greats. Being a leader that the team needs at every stage of the game. Fusina, Blackledge, and Sacca were great leaders and McSorley has gained the respect of his team, his coaches, and this fan base over the last four seasons. He deserves to be right up there with the best, and he might not believe it right now, but he deserves to be the winningest quarterback in Penn State history.
So, thank you James Franklin for seeing something in the ‘under-sized’ quarterback from Virginia. Thank you for bringing him to Penn State. And thank you, Trace McSorley, for being Penn State’s Superman. For epitomizing everything that a Nittany Lion is on and off the field. Congratulations on becoming the winningest quarterback in Penn State history.
The under-sized high school kid that wasn’t tall enough to big enough to play quarterback in college? He’s looking down on everyone else right now.
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