Legions of Notre Dame football fans in Northeast Pennsylvania eagerly anticipate the impending national title game against - who else? - Alabama.

They're not the only "Fighting Irish" celebrating the football season, however.

Nearby Scranton's Matt McGloin, Penn State's record-setting quarterback, was awarded the Burlsworth Trophy in a ceremony Monday in Arkansas.

The trophy is awarded each year to the top football player in Division 1-A who began his career as a non-scholarship walk-on.

For any non-scholarship kid to make a top-level roster is extraordinary, at any position, simply because the competition is so fierce and the scouting that leads to scholarships is so thorough. To make a top-level team as a quarterback without a scholarship is rare. To make the team and become a starter at quarterback, possibly the most difficult position in all of sports, is almost unheard-of. To do all that and set program records in the process is beyond extraordinary.

Mr. McGloin, who played sports at West Scranton High School, rejected abundant advice to play at a lower level and entered Penn State as a walk-on in 2008. Because he is somewhat under-sized and because Penn State had recruited several high-profile quarterbacks - Kevin Newsome, Paul Jones and Rob Bolden - the allegedly smart money was on Mr. McGloin never playing.

All three of those players transferred as Mr. McGloin aggressively defied convention - Mr. Newsome to Temple, Mr. Bolden to Louisiana State and Mr. Jones to Robert Morris.

Ultimately, Mr. McGloin became a key figure not only on the field but in helping to stabilize a football program that had been rocked by the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the firing and subsequent death of Joe Paterno.

Mr. McGloin has finished his career ranked first at PSU in touchdown passes, 46; completions in a season, 270; attempts in a season, 446; passing yardage in a season, 3,266; and passing touchdowns in a season, 24.

Mr. McGloin has said he would like to take a shot at making an NFL roster, which experts say is unlikely. Recent history, however, suggests that they shouldn't bet against him.