Capitals

In McGloin, PSU developed model walk-on for future

In McGloin, PSU developed model walk-on for future

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) In quarterback Matt McGloin, coach Bill O'Brien found the shining example of how much a former walk-on can succeed at Penn State.

A year for McGloin that included school records for career touchdown passes and single-season passing yards ended with the senior winning the Burlsworth Trophy, an award given to the top college player who started his career as a walk-on.

Perfect timing for a program that may need to rely on walk-ons more over the next few seasons. Scholarship cuts that are part of the NCAA sanctions for the school's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal start taking effect in 2013.

``I did realize throughout the season that I could be the face of the program and help out walk-ons everywhere,'' McGloin said this week. ``It's not how you get there - it's what you do when you get there.''

The award comes with a bit of irony for McGloin, who has been vocal throughout his career about disliking the term ``walk-on.'' The fifth-year senior did go on scholarship about 11 months after arriving at Penn State in 2008.

``It's unfair in a way due to the fact that I've done everything that a scholarship kid has done here, but what people don't understand is that as a walk-on you have to work twice as hard to earn your keep,'' McGloin said.

He certainly made a name for himself this season.

He broke the school record with 46 career touchdown passes, throwing 24 in 2012 to tie Daryll Clark (2009) for the Nittany Lions' single-season mark.

The season is over despite an 8-4 record and second-place finish in the Big Ten Leaders Division because the sanctions also included a four-year postseason ban. But the better-than-expected record and the Nittany Lions' fiery, blue-collar mentality under first-year coach Bill O'Brien have left a lasting impression with high school coaches like Central Dauphin's Glen McNamee. One of McNamee's players, former walk-on Derek Day, ended up starting a game at running back and becoming a special teams ace.

Tight end Matt Lehman also came to Penn State a walk-on from Newport, in central Pennsylvania, and emerged into a pass-catching threat in O'Brien's new passing offense orchestrated by McGloin. Senior safety Jacob Fagnano arrived at Penn State as a walk-on from Williamsport and ended his career as a key reserve and starting his last two games following an injury to Malcolm Willis.

``There's a tremendous amount of pride in the community,'' McNamee said. ``Guys like Derek grow up dreaming of playing at Penn State. There are still a lot of kids who have that dream.''

The NCAA sanctions limit Penn State's recruiting classes to no more than 15 a year for the next four years, starting with the 2013 class to be signed in February. Most teams can sign 25.

Starting with the 2014 season, the Nittany Lions can only have 65 players on scholarship until after the 2017 season. The usual scholarship limit for major college teams is 85.

Walk-ons will need to fill the gap for Penn State.

One of McNamee's players, Drew Scales, said he's looking at Penn State in hopes of getting a scholarship offer, but that he could also see coming to Happy Valley as a walk-on with a shot to contribute early in his career. The speedy 5-foot-8 senior said he's being recruited as a slot receiver.

Seeing Penn State's offense transform into a successful passing attack under O'Brien changed Scales' view of Penn State.

``Honestly, I haven't been a huge Penn State fan, but when Bill O'Brien got there, it completely changed my view,'' he said. ``I like the way he opened up the offense.''

Guy Montecalvo, the athletic director at Canon-McMillan High School in western Pennsylvania, said walk-ons will be needed to bolster depth in order for the Nittany Lions to remain competitive. Montecalvo also coached current Nittany Lions linebacker Mike Hull, who figures to be a key player on defense next season.

Montecalvo, who also played at Penn State, said McGloin became a model for other prospective walk-ons.

``I certainly think he is a shining example of what can happen to a young man if he has the courage of convictions to pursue his dream,'' Montecalvo said.

McGloin did that and became a starter against long odds, beating out highly-recruited players during his career including Rob Bolden. He has since transferred to LSU. McGloin and Bolden split the job the previous two seasons under former coach Joe Paterno.

O'Brien named McGloin the starter after spring practice, and McGloin flourished with a full offseason knowing he was going to lead the offense redesigned by O'Brien.

Now, being known as a former walk-on isn't so bad.

``Walk-ons want their names recognized. Myself, I liked the challenge,'' he said. ``I like being the underdog, wanting to earn respect and recognition each and every day.''

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Follow Genaro Armas athttp://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

Just four more wins. It hardly seems possible.

For only the second time ever and for the first time in 20 years, the Capitals will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final. And they could actually win it.

They’re not there yet. The Vegas Golden Knights have cruised through the playoffs thus far and continue to shock the hockey community with their postseason run. Washington’s players need to think about how to beat Vegas, not what happens after.

But while the players cannot and should not look ahead, for fans, it’s hard not to. It’s hard not to dream about that moment when Gary Bettman hands the Stanley Cup over to Alex Ovechkin.

Winning the conference is always a huge achievement that should be celebrated, but this year is different than 1998’s run. Back in 1998, the Caps played against a Detroit Red Wings team that is one of the greatest teams in NHL history. They were the defending champions after sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers the year before. Washington suffered the same fate as the Flyers, losing in just four games.

This year is a battle between two more evenly matched teams. Picking the Caps to win this series is not outlandish or crazy at all. This year, they could actually do it.

So before the puck drops for Game 1 and all dreams are pushed aside for the realities of what may happen, allow a fan a chance to think about what seeing the Washington Capitals actually hoist the Stanley Cup would actually mean.

Breaking news: Washington is not Canada and the Capitals are not an original six team. Hockey is not ingrained in the culture of D.C. the way it is in Canadian cities or in places like Boston and Detroit. Unlike in Vegas where the success of the team in its inaugural season has caught the city by storm, the Capitals won only eight games in their first year. Eight wins doesn’t exactly help a team grow roots in the community.

If you’ve been a fan of the Capitals long enough, chances are you’ve seen some pretty tough times. There have been plenty of playoff disappointments in this team’s history even before the current era. There was also the rebuild that began before the lockout that saw a very bad team play in front of a half empty stadium for several years. And they would not have even gotten to that point without the “Save the Caps” campaign in 1982.

But through it all, that small group of hardcore fans kept coming back. Some may have wavered from time to time, but they came back because being a hockey fan is different than other sports.

It’s hard to be a sports fan in any city with an NFL team and not follow football. Football may not even be your sport, but there is almost on obligation to following it because coverage and interest in football is so prevalent. It’s hard to avoid.

You have to seek out hockey

Hockey at times has been viewed as more of a niche sport than mainstream. Before the age of Alex Ovechkin, if you were from Washington and you were following the Caps, it was because you loved both.

So why did those Caps fans keep coming back after so much heartbreak? Because despite all of the disappointing seasons we always walked away telling ourselves, this will just make it that much sweeter when they do win.

One day, it will all be worth it.

That’s why we watch sports, isn’t it? We watch with the knowledge that sometimes, our hearts will be broken but it’s OK because the good will always outweigh the bad. And the worse the bad times are, the better the good times will feel afterward.

We kept telling ourselves that for a long time, but admittedly some years were tougher to get past than others. It’s hard to keep believing when you’ve seen your rival beat you nine times out of 10 in the playoffs heading into this year’s postseason. It’s hard when a team cannot seem to overcome its playoff history despite having one of the best players of all-time on its roster.

When Ovechkin was drafted, the question we all asked ourselves was not whether he would bring a Cup to Washington, but how many? He brought new fans with him, he brought excitement with him, he brought validation with him…at least initially.

But with every passing year, doubt began to creep into our minds. The upset loss to Montreal in 2010 stung, but Ovechkin was still 24. There was still hope that one day, he would still win the Cup.

Now at 32 years old, many did not know what to expect from the Great 8 this year. When would decline start to show in his game?

Ovechkin is part of why we want the Cup so badly. We want to see the best player in this franchise’s history honored. We want to see the player who transformed hockey in Washington from niche sport to mainstream take his proper place in the sport’s history. No one wants to hear him described as one of the best players to never win a Cup because he should be remembered as one of the best players, period.

But that’s not all of it.

This is about all those times we told ourselves this would all be worth it someday. This is about how we used to cope with the sting of another postseason heartbreak by thinking about what it would feel like when it was finally our year. This is about how we stuck with the team when the stadium was half empty. This is about the blue jersey in our closet with the eagle on the front and the black one hanging next to it with the capitol building on the front. This is about all the 5, 12, 32 and 37 jerseys. This is about replacing Esa Tikkanen as our lasting Stanley Cup memory.

When the Washington Redskins have a rough year, those fans who can remember them think about those three Super Bowl wins. When the Washington Wizards fall short, those fans who can remember it think about the championship in 1978. Even if you’re too young to remember the Super Bowls or NBA championship, those banners still give your team a sense of validation. They have their little piece of history to be proud of.

That’s what this would mean. A Stanley Cup would be not just for the players, it would be for the fans who stuck it out through thick and thin, those fans who despite everything still supported their team. This win would be about the Capitals forever earning their spot in the heart of Washington sports alongside the Redskins and Wizards.

This would be about never having to tell ourselves again that someday all the love we pour into this team will pay off.

A Stanley Cup would mean finally getting to experience a championship and realizing, yeah, it was all worth it.

Let’s go Caps!

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Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One is repping the district in a big way: by changing their logo to incorporate the Capitals' font and name. 

The new Capital One logo appears on the bank's websites and social media ahead of the Caps' Stanley Cup Final games, which begin on Memorial Day Monday in Vegas.

The McLean, Virginia, based bank recently purchased the naming rights to the Capitals' home arena, formerly known as "Verizon Center." And in the first year of its renaming, the Capitals have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. Coincidence? 

We've seen a small, Northern Virginia town change its name to "Capitalsville," and now Capital One Bank is all-in for the Caps.

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