MOBILE, Ala. -- One is in Orlando for the Pro Bowl. The other is in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. It’s a busy week for two of the most accomplished players in Penn State history.
While Giants running back Saquon Barkley basks in his accomplishments after one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history, quarterback Trace McSorley is trying to prove he can play on Sundays. Seeing the Nittany Lions’ all-time leading rusher do it only provided more motivation for the school’s all-time passing leader.
“It was fun being able to watch him. That dude, Saquon is impressive,” McSorley said during Senior Bowl media day. “He just keeps getting better. You don’t think he can, and then he does. So it’s been awesome to kind of see his game translate and him kind of grow into the star he is.”
Penn State coach James Franklin typically works his team on NFL Sundays, meaning McSorley was either in meetings or lifting weights while Barkley ran his way into franchise and league record books. But when the Giants played in primetime, McSorley could watch it all.
“Late night games, we were always checking him out and always checking the highlights afterwards,” McSorley said. “We’d get into practice and be like, ‘Did y’all see Say run a 75-yarder?’ So it was cool to be able to see all that.”
McSorley said his fondest memory together was defeating Wisconsin to win the Big Ten championship in 2016. They went on to contribute to the highest-scoring game in Rose Bowl history. Despite the 52-49 loss to USC, McSorley was responsible for five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing), tying the Rose Bowl record and breaking the Penn State bowl record. Barkley found the end zone three times on 306 all-purpose yards (194 rushing, 55 receiving and 57 kick return), including a 79-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half. McSorley said that was his best play.
“That’s just something that I’m handing the ball off, I’m just carrying my fake away, and all I see is a mass of bodies and then just like a dash going through all of them,” McSorley said. “Then he pops out the other end and goes the distance. I think those things, from the view I had, especially how it came out the first play of the second half, kind of got us going in that game – it was just an awesome, awesome play.”
The view he had was 6 feet even from the ground. And with a 203-pound frame, McSorley might not be the prototypical size in the NFL. However, that is being re-defined. Baker Mayfield, just an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier, was the No. 1 overall pick by the Browns last year. The similarities don’t end there. McSorley and Mayfield were known for their fiery competitive spirit.
“My leadership is something that was kind of able to make me successful in college,” said McSorley, who left Penn State with more wins (31) than any quarterback in school history. “And my competitiveness of being able to come in competing with whoever had the job or competing with whoever I was going against, I was always out there competing and trying to get better. My guys believed in me, and that was something I was able to take and turn into a lot of victories in college and give myself and my team a good career.”
McSorley wants to continue to show those traits at the Senior Bowl and in the slate of practices leading up to the game. This week will go a long way in finding out how he figures into this draft class. NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah currently has Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins ranked as the top quarterback (15th overall). Oklahoma’s most recent Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray is fourth (29th overall). Both were underclassmen who declared early for the draft, making Missouri’s Drew Lock (23rd) and Duke’s Daniel Jones (24th) the highest-rated quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl, according to Jeremiah.
“You’ve got the best of the best here in Mobile,” McSorley said. “The best on offense, defense, probably the best group of quarterbacks in this draft class. (My goal is) to be able to come in, compete with these guys, and prove myself, prove that I belong with these guys. I wholeheartedly believe that, and I want to come in and prove to everyone else that I belong and that I’m among the best of the best.”
Also working in McSorley’s favor is the growing list of college concepts making it into NFL playbooks.
“It’s awesome kind of seeing some of these things translating,” said McSorley, who grew up a Redskins fan and led his Briar Woods High School team to four Virginia State Championship games, winning three times. “There’s a little bit of changing up in the offensive schemes at the NFL level, but whatever I’m asked to do – if it’s college-type schemes, pro schemes, whatever it is, I feel like I’ll be ready to do. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to have this chance to be pursing my lifelong dream.”
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