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PENN STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 20, 2018
University Park, Pennsylvania
Q. Is this week weird for you?
TRACE McSORLEY: I mean, I guess a little bit. Probably will be more so on Saturday I guess with, it being the last time playing in Beaver Stadium, with it being the last game, Senior Day and all that.
Right now, I think I've been able to do a pretty good job just having the same routine over the last through years so that I can try and make sure that I don't get those kind of weird emotions or anything like that, get out of whack leading up to the game.
Q. You started to talk about it a little bit, but have you envisioned much, like going into the tunnel and all that? Are you trying to put that out of your mind completely? How does that work this week trying to prepare yourself for something that could be emotional?
TRACE McSORLEY: Yeah, I haven't really envisioned it or thought too much about it.
I think just kind of the best way that I think you can handle it is just when those emotions kind of happen, just let yourself experience that for a couple seconds here and there, ten, 15 seconds, whatever it might be and then be able to refocus.
My approach right now is to be as focused as I possibly can on the game so when it comes time to refocus and get back in there, I can do that.
Q. I was asking Coach Franklin when he was making those phone calls, leaves Vanderbilt and there's that dead period where they can't talk to you guys and everything is getting situated. Do you remember anything about phone call when he finally reached out to you? I'm sure you were anxious, maybe upset leading up to that.
TRACE McSORLEY: Yeah, I remember I was in the car leaving a friend's house and he called me and it was like a PA area code, so I answered it, and it was Coach Franklin.
I remember being like probably a little short on the phone because I was upset with kind of how everything had gone down, and obviously not knowing exactly what was going on in the dead period, not hearing anything for a while.
I remember I was probably a little short on the phone. He was just saying, "Hey, sorry all these weeks, how this all panned out, but we want you to come up here. Take a visit. We want you to come play here." All that kind of stuff.
After that phone call, I kind of hung up. I was on my way home, talked to my parents and we made the trip up that weekend. We were like, had a free weekend, let's just do it.
I remember, yeah, I was probably a little short at the time on the phone, but everything worked out. Coach Franklin I think kind of knew that because when I came up that weekend, I remember ended up tell him I was -- ended up coming here.
He said to me, "So we're cool now?" Like we don't have any animosity between us anymore. So yeah, I think he got that sense a little bit, too, but yeah, just everything worked out well.
Q. Did you ever think of not coming to Penn State? Was there a point in time where you're like, I'm going to stay at Vandy?
TRACE McSORLEY: I mean, I really didn't -- at that time, I didn't really know where I was going to go. It wasn't that I wasn't going to go to Vandy or that I wasn't going to go to Penn State.
I was just kind of looking for an option. I think at that point, it's what I really needed. It was towards the end of the recruiting cycle and all that. A lot of the schools that I had been looking at, their classes had filled up, and they weren't able to take any other guys or what-have-you.
So I think at that point I was looking for an opportunity.
Q. What's the question you've gotten to ask most over the last three years? What's the one that makes you quietly roll your eyes, the most violently?
TRACE McSORLEY: That's a tough one. I don't really know. I think it's just kind of one of those things that there's always the same sort of questions that probably get asked, probably about leading up to games, is like, you know, when people try and ask about what do you think about things in the future, and like those type of questions that you can kind of get a sense that they are trying to get you to say something that's just going to end up being misconstrued in a different way.
I think those are the type of things where I feel like, I'll get asked questions like that and I'll know what they are trying to get at and stay away from them as much as possible. Those are the ones I think probably get up me the most I guess.
Q. Looking ahead to the Bowl -- (Laughter) -- is it hard not to think about the end?
TRACE McSORLEY: It's hard at times to not think about the end, especially with it being so close at this point. I think that's kind of one of the things that we're kind of there at this point. This is the end of these senior times and my time here at Beaver Stadium, and I think that's something that it's tough to not think about it, understanding the magnitude of it all and everything that's gone into it.
For me being here five years, I remember running out in the stadium the first time we were playing Akron the year I was redshirting and to think that it's gone that fast and all those games that have built up to this game leading up, there's a lot that's gone into it.
It's going to be one of those times that it's going to be -- you don't realize it's gone until it is, and I think that's kind of the point where I'm at is I've been here for so long. I feel like this is never going to end and here we are this week.
Q. I guess following up on that, is it going to be tough, you see on Instagram stories and stuff like that Marcus and some of those guys watching the games now. Is it hard to think that in a year, that will be you watching Penn State play?
TRACE McSORLEY: Yeah, it is kind of hard to think like that. It's just one of those things that I guess you don't necessarily think about it until you're there.
I think for one, it will be hard to be in that position, but two, I think it's kind of cool to now be able to be a fan of Penn State and be someone who is not going to just support -- obviously there's so much stuff that goes into a game.
It will still be my teammates be out there playing. Being able to watch them and support them in years to come, I think it's something that it will be cool to be able to do that. Obviously we won't have the same sort of sentiment as playing with them and running out of the tunnel with those guys.
But you watch those games and you see Marcus on his inis it gram story -- of course, he's always got his personality flowing through it. He misses it, but it's cool for him to see guys like Garrett and Nick coming out and playing well and having success. So I think that will be a cool thing.
Q. What are you most proud of what you've done during your time here, and is there anything you regret that you weren't able to accomplish?
TRACE McSORLEY: You know, I think I'm proud of just how far this team has come in my time here from when we got here as freshmen, going through the first couple years, 6-6, 7-6, being Bowl-eligible -- right when I got here, we weren't even -- to think that we were in my time here, to go from that where we were still on post-season bans and all that type of stuff to where in my time we were able to win a Big 10 Championship, play in a Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Bowl games that people dream about going to their entire lives; and when we got here, there wasn't even a thought that we would have a chance at any Bowl game, at least in the next three years when I first got here.
I think that's probably what I'm most proud of is how far this team has come over those five years from where we started to where we're going to be finishing up this year, and all the things we've been able to accomplish over my time.
Q. What has Koa meant to you over the years and what do you think he's meant to this program?
TRACE McSORLEY: I think Koa has been one of those guys that he's sacrificed anything and everything for this team. He came in as a safety. He played safety his first year, moved to linebacker.
I think then he was getting the feel for linebacker, and I think had some injuries or something, and he moved back to safety and he's back playing safety.
This whole time, he's contributing as much as he can on special teams. And then he gets moves back to down to linebacker. He's playing Sam. He's playing will. And anything these coaches have asked him to do, he's done, and he's done it at a pretty high level.
I think what he means kind of for this team and for our program, it's hard to really put into words everything that he's given up and sacrificed for our team.
Then personally, he was my roommate my first two or three years. We're roommates again this year. He's a brother to me, a brother to all the guys on the team.
Probably my best friend since we got here. I remember being on our recruiting trip and on the official visit, he had not committed left and he looked at me and he was like, "We're going to be best friends." I think it's something that it's cool to that have type of bond here at Penn State.
Personally, Koa is a brother to me, and it's going to be weird to not be around him all the time. But it's going to be cool to be able to stay in touch with him and obviously we'll keep our relationship going the rest of our lives.
Q. A long time ago, returning kicks --
TRACE McSORLEY: Yeah, I forgot about that. At one point he returned kicks. He's contributed as much as he can from everywhere, returning kickoffs to putting on 30, 40 pounds and moving down to linebacker and losing that kickoff spot. He had a big one against Ohio State -- he's still got that in him.
It's just something that he makes plays for us. He has not been maybe the big, flashy-type playmaker guy but he's always consistently making plays and doing his job and I think for everything he's done for this program, he's been overlooked I think for everything that he's done and what he really means to our program.
Q. Koa said you guys worked out in California before you even got to school. Do you remember anything about that workout? He said he was running patterns for you.
TRACE McSORLEY: Yeah, it was right before we got here. He was out there. He had been a receiver all through high school. He said he never played defense.
He was just running routes and stuff like that. At that point I was able to get some of the routes and knew what kind of stuff we'd be throwing, so we were doing that kind of stuff.
We did like ladder drills, all that kind of stuff. I remember doing speed work. We like finished. We're like, all right, we got to do some conditioning, so were running like 100-yard sprints at the end. I was like dying, and he was just getting out of track, so he's like coasting through it all and I'm like dead.
I remember, that was just one of the things that we just kind of -- that's where our friendship and kind of bond started off.
Funny story, he's driving me to my aunt's place in California to drop me off, and we're like on the freeway. He realizes that he's running out of gas. So we've got to like pull off and we're like in the middle of -- I don't even know where we were in L.A.
But neither of us had any idea where we were in L.A. trying to find gas. Find one gas station, end up like that gas station was closed, so we had to find another one, all that stuff, fighting traffic and all that. That was one of the first experiences we had.
Everything that went into it, I think probably was a little bit of foreshadowing how our journey at Penn State would be.
Q. This is not about Senior Day. Kind of off the wall. What's Thanksgiving like for a college football player here, and how important is it to balance maybe trying to get some type of family time or connection when you still have work to do?
TRACE McSORLEY: Yeah, it is tough, especially for a lot of guys, your whole life, you've grown up, you've got big Thanksgiving dinners with your family and aunts uncles, everyone coming into town and you get here, especially if you move from far away or anything like that, you can't do those kind of things. You're kind of stuck on practice. You have practice Thursday morning.
I mean, it's tough to be a college football player. You definitely sacrifice a lot of family time. Our coaches sacrifice time with their families every single week but I think when you get to around times like Thanksgiving, it kind of hits home a little bit more.
I think that's one of the good things about having teammates and guys that you can go and spend time with and maybe you're not getting like the family time with your immediate family but you're still getting quality time with guys you consider your brothers and things like that.
I think that kind of helps us. The program does a really good job. They will do like a Thanksgiving lunch on Thursday at training table where you still get the turkey, all those normal Thanksgiving foods and be able to hang out and kind of have like a big Thanksgiving meal with everyone and then try and give guys time in the afternoon off, if they are within range, be able to go home and do see family if they can.
A lot of times, guys will travel with teammates, go to their houses and things like that.
It's one of the times that it's hard, but I think it's better that you're able to spend time with your teammates and if your families are around, be able to come up and things like that.
Q. Was there a time during that Iowa game, now that we're a few weeks away from it where you thought, wow, this might be my college football career ending and how much more valuable have these last few games been to you? Has there been an element of perspective knowing how quickly you can lose something?
TRACE McSORLEY: Yeah, I think it definitely kind of was a little bit. You hear all the time that guys come back and talk to us about how fast things go and how fast things can be taken away from you.
When something like that happens, it's almost like a scare a little bit. You don't necessarily know, especially in the time where you don't exactly know what happened and that kind of stuff. I think for a little bit there, there was a little bit of scare that, was this going to be the end.
Fortunately for me, it wasn't, and it wasn't as bad as I thought initially in my own head. I was able to keep pushing through it. It's been tough obviously the last couple weeks with having to deal with injuries and things like that, things that I had not necessarily had to go through in my career. It's put things in my perspective, like you said, that this could be taken away at any time.
Fortunately for me it wasn't, and I'm able to finish this year out and be able to walk on Senior Day and play with my teammates one more time in Beaver Stadium.
Q. Any idea what you plan on doing long after football? What was your degree in and do you plan to do something with that?
TRACE McSORLEY: I got my degree in accounting. Not really sure exactly how if I'm going to use that or in what way. I want to stay around the game as long as possible. So whether that be playing as long as I can or coaching, whatever it might be, I'm not exactly sure what I want to do.
Part of what I want to do with this year was do some broadcast journalism classes, see if there's another avenue that I can stay around it if I'm in the playing it and all that.
Honestly haven't given too much thought to it. I've just been focused on playing and that kind of stuff.
Q. How has your relationship evolved with Coach Rahne, from the guy who came to recruit you and really gave that you chance as a quarterback to your offensive coordinator you?
TRACE McSORLEY: I think our relationship, it's grown every single year, even when he wasn't my position coach anymore.
Obviously he gave me the opportunity. He was one of the few who kind of believed in my ability to be a quarterback at the college level. So for that, I'll always be eternally grateful for the opportunity he gave me.
Since I got here and the relationship we've been able to build with him, not just him, with his family and his kids, I was just at his son's class, we were doing like the first year class, reading and they had us doing like a dance and all that kind of stuff. It was fun.
Just to be able to have that relationship with him and his family and then just kind of continued to grow as far as the trust that we've been able to build in each other; that he trusts me in situations to be able to make a play when our team needs it, and I trust him that he's going to be able to make the calls.
And if there's a time where he's got to tell me something and be completely honest with me and kind of bring me back down to earth; that he can do that and same way, it works both ways. If there's something where I see something and I want to try and exploit, I can bring that to him, and he trusts my opinion and trusts what I'm seeing.
And in the times that I've done that, usually the next drive, we've done that, and sometimes it's worked and sometimes it hasn't. But that's why I'm not quite the coach yet.
Q. You guys all have these somewhat quirky handshakes pregame. Do you and Koa have one pregame? How did that start?
TRACE McSORLEY: I think it just kind of started, one night, he was just like -- I think he said something about like me and Billy doing the home run swing, and he was like, "Why don't we have anything, you're supposed to be my brother, we don't have something," blah, blah, whatever.
I was like, "All right, Bro, like let's make one then." He'll always warm up and stuff -- he'll still go out with the returners and catch and all that kind of stuff. And then when they go do their own thing, he'll just come down and catch for us as we're warming up.
So kind of just, I don't really know exactly how it started. He wanted to do something that's a little West Coast because anything he does has to have that West Coast connotation within it in and all that. That's kind of how it all started and then just grew from there. At one point, it just ended up evolving step after step. He just kind of made it up and I just kind of went with it.
Q. Before the Rutgers game, when you and the quarterbacks were fielding snaps from the center, you fielded a snap and tossed a ball to a kid, and that kid was smiling for ten, 15 minutes after the fact. Have you found yourself doing stuff like that more this year?
TRACE McSORLEY: Yeah, this year, that's been something that I've kind of started to do, especially at that point. Just kind of something to try and have some funny guess.
You know, try and make an impact if there's a little kid around there, toss it to him and try and make his day a little bit, whatever it might be. I know if I was a little kid sitting there, that would have made my day.
It doesn't distract from anything. It's just something that if I can make someone's day a little bit by doing something as simple as tossing a ball real quick and get back to it, I'll do it. That's just something I've started to do this year and it's been able to work out and hopefully I've been able to make a couple people's days and make a couple people happier.
Q. This senior class as a whole, how do you want you guys to be remembered? Sorry to ask too far ahead, but what legacy do you hope you guys leave behind?
TRACE McSORLEY: I hope our legacy as a senior class, a lot of guys that came in to Penn State at a time when it wasn't necessarily the brightest. Still had the tradition and everything like that, but things were still a little bit bleak at the time.
I think just want to be remembered as a bunch of guys that didn't necessarily come in with all the hype as far as the recruiting and through all that, and you know, we didn't have all the high expectations of everything that some people do now.
But guys that were able to come, work hard, be able to bring Penn State success and then kind of bring Penn State back into the national spotlight and to competing for championship-level games, whether it's Big Ten, National Championship, want to be putting ourselves into that conversation every single year and giving this program something that they can be proud of; a group of guys that came and worked hard and didn't really care what anybody else said about them or what everyone else expected them to do.
We've bonded together and just worked hard to be able to bring this program back to where we thought it should have been in the time we got here.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports