ALAMEDA -- In the wake of Penn State's Jerry Sandusky scandal, the football program had been put through the wringer: scholarship and financial penalties, bowl game bans, transfers galore. No one gave the once-storied Nittany Lions any chance for success.
In other words, it was a situation made for Raiders rookie quarterback Matt McGloin.
"It played right into his underdog story," said Penn State tackle Eric Shrive, a college and high school teammate of McGloin's in Scranton, Pa. "We knew we were in a tough situation, but we weren't going to be anybody's charity case.
"People didn't think we were any good, and Matt was going out there to prove he was the best quarterback in the Big Ten."
McGloin led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record under coach Bill O'Brien to help keep the program afloat.
Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, a Penn State alum raised in Scranton, praised McGloin in a conference call for "being a big part in holding that place together in one of the biggest years in Penn State history."
A year later, McGloin is attempting to resuscitate the fortunes in Oakland with a franchise on its 15th starting quarterback since 2004.
In leading the Raiders to a 28-23 win over Houston, and throwing three touchdown passes in his starting debut, McGloin surprised just about everybody except those who have witnessed his magic before in Scranton or State College, Pa.
The quarterback who wasn't invited to the NFL scouting combine and not selected in the draft gets another shot Sunday when the Raiders (4-6) face the Titans (4-6) at O.co Coliseum in a battle between two teams on the outer fringe of the wild-card race.
"The mindset I've always had is that I never took a back seat to anybody," McGloin said. "I really don't look at who is ahead of me on the depth chart or behind me. I figure each day is a chance to get better, improve as a leader. Now that I'm starting, that hasn't changed."
McGloin beat out an incumbent quarterback as a sophomore at West Scranton High, beating a Crestwood team with a 25-game win streak in his varsity debut. He would go on to win two district championships. He was also the star of the baseball and basketball teams, serving as a pitcher, infielder and point guard.
"He was the guy throwing the touchdown pass, making the big shot or hitting the home run, and his attitude was always the same," Shrive said. "He had that chip on his shoulder where he'd think, "You don't think I'm good enough? Then just watch.' "
At 6-foot-1, McGloin was considered a Division I-AA prospect at best and was under the radar in part because of Raiders teammate Terrelle Pryor, who was the nation's top recruit and played in the same state at Jeannette High.
While Penn State awaited word on Pryor (who eventually went to Ohio State), McGloin accepted an invitation as a preferred walk-on.
McGloin's father, Paul McGloin, asked Matt what he would do if Pryor came to Penn State.
"He said, 'I'd wish him luck,' " Paul McGloin Sr. said, "then I'll go out there and show people what I can do.' "
Other more decorated quarterbacks came and went, but it was McGloin who ended up a two-year starter, completing 57.4 percent of his passes for 6,390 yards and 46 touchdowns.
McGloin's performance against Houston enhanced his legend in Scranton, a blue collar community that supports its own with a fervor bordering on fanatical.
When Scranton native Gerry McNamara played basketball at Syracuse, it took 50 buses to bring the town's well-wishers to the Carrier Dome for his senior night in 2006. Two of the kids on the bus were Shrive and McGloin, later high school and college teammates.
Paul and Cathy McGloin have owned and operated a Main Street Floral shop in Scranton for 34 years. All week, people have honked, waved and come in to the shop to talk about Matt.
During a meal at a diner on Mike Munchak Way in Scranton, Cathy McGloin said in a phone interview the community reaction has been overwhelming.
"It's been crazy," Cathy McGloin said. "People stop us in church and the grocery store. Everybody is waving, beeping the horn. Two nice people just stopped to say congratulations to my son. This is what Scranton's all about."
The McGloins opened their doors to as many friends as they could cram into their house to watch the Raiders-Texans game on NFL Ticket.
"Everyone was screaming, kissing, giving high-fives, jumping up and down," Cathy McGloin said.
Paul McGloin said Matt owes much of his competitive nature to his older brothers, Paul Jr. and John. Each brother is separated by seven years, with Paul Jr. old enough at 14 to change his baby brother's diapers when Matt was born.
The brothers never took it easy on Matt.
"My mother used to yell at us all the time, 'Can't you let him win just once?' " John McGloin said. "We'd say, 'Absolutely not. He's never going to learn if you think that way.' "
Said Paul McGloin Jr.: "I used to say he was competitive to a fault. If I beat him in basketball, he wouldn't talk to me for a few hours."
The McGloin brothers still send Matt near-daily reminders about dedication and focus.
"He's to the point now where he'll sass back and answer, "Hey, I'm working! You don't need to tell me that,' " John McGloin said.
Paul McGloin Jr., a scout for the New York Yankees, has talked often with Matt about his mental approach and said, "I don't think he steps back and looks at the magnitude of the situation and what it means."
Raiders center Stefen Wisniewski played with McGloin for three years at Penn State and said he's the same guy in an NFL huddle as he was in college.
"He was always so confident -- so confident we joked about how confident he was," Wisniewski said. "That's the way he handles himself. Players love him. He's everything you want in a quarterback."
Tennessee (4-6) at Raiders
(4-6), 1:05 p.m. CBS
BOB LEVEY/GETTY IMAGES
Matt McGloin personifies confidence: "The mindset I've always had is that I never took a back seat to anybody,"