Former Penn State linebacker Mike Hull really believed he’d be selected in the 2015 NFL draft. Two years earlier, former Nittany Lion signal-caller Matt McGloin thought the same.
Between the two of them, Hull and McGloin watched as 510 players were picked — and neither heard his name called.
The same happened to Garrett Sickels, Brandon Bell, Evan Schwan and Malik Golden over the weekend. Minutes after the draft concluded, they were figuring out where to sign as undrafted free agents.
It’s not easy to find a spot in the NFL — and stay there — after seven rounds and 32 teams pass on by. But McGloin and Hull have set examples for the current crop of Penn State undrafted free agents, making it in a league crowded with talent and scarce in opportunities.
“My mindset was that I was going to make it,” McGloin said. “I deserved to make it. I was going to. That’s what it comes down to. You can have all the talent in the world. You’re a first-round guy, fifth-round guy, undrafted guy — if you’re not out there making plays and performing, you’re not going to make the team. You’re not going to be in the league for a while.”
McGloin, who signed a one-year deal with the Eagles this offseason, is preparing to enter his fifth NFL campaign. The Scranton native spent his first four seasons in Oakland, where he made seven starts — six of which were in his rookie campaign.
McGloin made the Raiders’ roster as their No. 3 quarterback, beating out former Arkansas gunslinger and 2013 fourth-round selection Tyler Wilson. Four weeks into the 2013 season, McGloin was promoted to be Terrelle Pryor’s backup, and he earned his first start in Week 11.
It was an improbable rise for the former Penn State walk-on.
“I can’t control what everyone else does, what other quarterbacks do or what the coaches think or say,” McGloin said. “But I can control how I approach every day, how I work every day, and if I’m prepared and focused. That’s all I’ve ever done. Just be consistent and take it one day at a time. ... I always thought that if I continued to do that, good things were going to happen.”
Hull shared the same mentality.
The middle linebacker, who recorded 140 tackles in 2014, wasn’t drafted largely because of injury concerns. After a 2013 knee injury, a scope kept him out of the 2015 Senior Bowl and scared teams off.
But Hull landed with the Miami Dolphins and re-signed with the team this offseason after making an impact on special teams in his rookie campaign and playing all 16 games on defense last season while recording 33 tackles.
“It’s definitely been satisfying, sticking it to everyone who thought I couldn’t make it,” Hull said. “I’m still not happy where I’m at; I want to keep improving. It’s always going to be a battle from here on out, but you learn to embrace it — especially when you’re undrafted.”
Hull has been there for some of his former teammates. The Canonsburg native spoke to Schwan throughout the process and kept tabs on Nyeem Wartman-White, who hasn’t yet signed with a club.
Having gone the undrafted free-agent route before, Hull can relate. In 2015, he had to impress the Dolphins from Day 1 with no margin for error.
When Schwan joins the Giants, Sickels gets to Indianapolis, Golden heads out to San Francisco and Bell arrives in Cincinnati, they’ll all have to do the same — and a pair of Nittany Lion success stories have advice for them.
“Everyone’s had the same goal, and that’s to play in the NFL, from the time they were little,” Hull said. “Now that you’re there, it doesn’t matter how you got there. Make it count. Treat every day like your last because it could be. Enjoy the process, and do whatever it takes to reach those goals you set so long ago.”
Added McGloin: “You’re all there for a reason. You’re all there because the scouting department and the team saw something in you, and they want you there. It’s your job from there on out to make the team and to show the organization that you’re there for a reason and they were right for bringing you in and signing you.”
Penn State’s UDFAs
Here are the PSU players who have so far signed undrafted free-agent deals with NFL teams:
▪ LB Brandon Bell: Cincinnati Bengals
▪ S Malik Golden: San Francisco 49ers
▪ DE Evan Schwan: New York Giants
▪ DE Garrett Sickels: Indianapolis Colts