Trace McSorley waited and waited and waited.
The New England Patriots, thought to be a destination for the Penn State quarterback, landed Auburn signal-caller Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round. Philadelphia, a team in need of a backup signal-caller to Carson Wentz, selected a Big Ten quarterback in the fifth round — but it was Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson, not McSorley.
But when the program record-holder got the call in the sixth round (No. 197 overall), McSorley broke down in tears. He hugged his mom, Andrea, and his dad, Rick, and put on a Baltimore Ravens hat. Penn State fans from Pittsburgh groaned at him going to an AFC North rival — but everyone who watched No. 9 over the last three years recognized McSorley’s undeniable fit in Baltimore. That includes the Ravens brass.
“He was a sleeper pick for us,” Ravens general manager Eric DeAcosta told reporters Saturday. “We fell in love with the kid. We brought him in as a quarterback, but we think his skill-set really does fit what we’re trying to accomplish on offense. And he’s got potential to do some other things, too.”
The most interesting part of DeAcosta’s comments? McSorley’s ability to “do some other things.”
Baltimore has its quarterback of the future in 2018 first-round pick Lamar Jackson; the Heisman Trophy winner’s job is safe. But McSorley is going to see the field, should he make the roster.
The Ravens plan on using McSorley like New Orleans uses Taysom Hill — the Saints’ read-option quarterback who also lines up at running back, receiver and tight end and on special teams as a cover man. It’s a bit ironic that McSorley comes from a situation where his backup at Penn State, Tommy Stevens, played a similar Swiss Army Knife role. Now, it’s McSorley who is tasked with adapting to a new gig — one he is willing to take on despite initial hesitation to do anything outside of playing quarterback.
Two months ago in Indianapolis, McSorley declined a request to also work out as a defensive back at the NFL Combine. The former all-state safety in high school who was primarily recruited as a DB had put that in the past. McSorley said at Penn State’s Pro Day that he was a quarterback in his “heart and mind.”
On Saturday, when speaking with Ravens reporters via conference call, McSorley maintained that stance — while adding a wrinkle.
“My main thing is, I want to be a quarterback,” Penn State’s all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns said, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “But I know I can do other things to make a team successful.”
Added Ravens head coach John Harbaugh: “You saw what the Saints have done down there with their third quarterback. That’s something we’ll have a chance to do, too, with Trace.”
Harbaugh mentioned special teams being a possibility with McSorley. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Penn State product and Jackson on the field at the same time, either.
Baltimore eased Jackson into his rookie season by implementing Wildcat packages with Joe Flacco lined up at receiver. Flacco didn’t do anything other than stand there, of course. But McSorley’s involvement in place of Flacco — whether he’s fielding the snap, securing a motion handoff or even running a route — would not only be fun to watch, but it’d also keep opposing defensive coordinators on their toes.
McSorley, who was knocked in the pre-draft process for his lacking size and arm strength, may not become a traditional starting quarterback in the NFL. But Harbaugh likes what the gritty winner who ran for 792 yards last year brings to the table.
“You want players with roles,” the coach said, “and he’s a guy that has a chance to have a big role for us.”