Shane McGregor looks back fondly on his nearly-completed five-year career as a Penn State football player, citing the incredible people he’s met and things he has learned.
But, for a short time in high school, becoming a Division I football player seemed like a fleeting aspiration for McGregor.
“I remember crying with my mother one time in the car,” McGregor said. “She’s talking, asking, ‘What about college?’ And it’s a pretty emotional time when you just stare at the death of your dream right in the face.”
McGregor and his family dedicated itself to helping the high school senior achieve his dream, despite the initial lack of interest from schools, and Penn State eventually took the quarterback as a preferred walk-on. McGregor said realizing that he is heading into his final two games as a Nittany Lion has allowed him to reflect on how far he has come since the pivotal conversation he had with his mother.
Hailing from Ebensburg, about an hour from State College, McGregor was disappointed to receive offers from Division I-AA schools at best. But, the quarterback said his typically reserved mother snapped him out of his emotional lapse.
“She steps out and says, ‘Shane, we’re going to take your highlight tape, and we’re going to send it to everyone that you want to,’ ” McGregor recalled. “ ‘And if we get nothing back, we’ll send it again. And if we get nothing there, we’re going to call and we’ll do something until something happens.’ ”
McGregor said it didn’t take long for the Nittany Lions’ coaching staff to get back to him and after a Presidents’ Day visit to Happy Valley, he said the walk-on opportunity was one he could not turn down. The quarterback, who is also a passionate writer majoring in journalism and english, called Penn State the “perfect marriage” between football and academics.
Although McGregor’s stats may not show him to be a major contributor on the field — he has just one completion in his career — teammates said the importance of his presence has stretched beyond the stat sheet.
“Shane is one of the outstanding guys that you love to have as a teammate,” offensive lineman Mike Farrell said. “He’s a leader of this team, especially in the offseason, with the effort that he puts in as we train all the time in the weight room and when we condition.”
The third-string quarterback said he would do the same thing over again even if he knew playing time would be minimal throughout his career, because he has been exposed to many different outlets that have helped him grow.
For example, the College of Communications and the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism sent the senior to cover the BCS National Championship game between Alabama and LSU in January.
Coach Bill O’Brien said the quarterback is one of several unheralded seniors who Penn State faithful are likely to hear more about after he graduates than in his time here because of his work off the field.
Meanwhile, outside the football program, the quarterback danced in the IFC/ Panhellenic Dance Marathon and was also a member of this year’s Homecoming Court.
“To be honest, I look at myself as a regular college kid, but I just happen to play a sport that a lot of people are interested,” McGregor said. “I love the idea of just being as good as you can be in as many things as you can be involved in.”
McGregor said his main role within the team has been to relentlessly focus on whatever way he can best serve the team, whether impersonating the opposing quarterback or helping other players with the playbook.
And as Farrell puts it, his teammate has acted as an excellent leader in all aspects of his college career.
“He’s a guy who really leads by example, not only from a football aspect, but outside of that as well,” Farrell said. “The role he has on this campus, the job that he does in the classroom, the job he does in the community, he’s really involved in all those things.”
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