Sunday, February 14, 2016

Meet Penn State's 'Dirty Show'

There's a lot of things you can call Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin, but if you're on Bill O'Brien's practice field there's one name you shouldn't use - "walk-on."

Meet Penn State's 'Dirty Show'


There’s a lot of things you can call Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin, but if you’re on Bill O’Brien’s practice field there’s one name you shouldn’t use – former "walk-on."

That’s because O’Brien has erased that word from his team’s vocabulary. They’re called "run-ons" now.

"These guys don't walk, they run on the field, they sprint on the field, they bust their butt on the field," O’Brien said as a smile stretched across his face at Tuesday’s press conference. "I know that goes against everybody's term for non‑scholarship players for the last 100 years of college football, but that's just our term for them."

Another new term for O’Brien’s squad? The Dirty Show.

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And who exactly makes up "The Dirty Show?" Senior quarterback Shane McGregor, senior fullback Pat Zerbe, and dozens of players most casual Penn State fans probably haven’t heard of – and probably won’t see take the field on Saturday against Virginia.

For most programs, this is the "scout team." For as long as anyone can remember they’ve been called the "foreign team" at Penn State.

But this is O’Brien’s program now, and his touches are all over the kingdom of Penn State football. He changed the uniforms, rewrote the strength and conditioning program and altered the soundtrack at practice.

So meet "The Dirty Show." It’s a term borrowed from O’Brien’s former employer, the New England Patriots.

O’Brien says one reason for the name change is because "foreign team" and "walk-on" have negative connotations.

"It makes it seem like they just came, that nobody wanted them which is far from the truth," senior fullback Mike Zordich said. "They got recruited they just couldn’t get a scholarship."

Most were standout players at their high schools. Many had other scholarship offers. All play an important role at practice in pushing the starters to work harder.

They’ve improved a lot in their time at Penn State, and that’s something to be proud of.

"High school players in the state of Pennsylvania can really look at that and say, here's a place that I've grown up loving, and I've always wanted to play at, and here's my opportunity to go play at and potentially earn a scholarship in my time there," O’Brien said.  " I think there's no doubt that hopefully that resonates with kids in Pennsylvania especially.

O’Brien also changed the name because it keeps everyone involved.

"It makes it more fun for those guys," Zordich said.

If a player like Zerbe makes a play against the defense, instead of getting yelled at, he can celebrate.

Zordich says that pumps up the intensity in practice and makes it more of a game-like, competitive atmosphere. At New England, the Dirty Show often showboated in practice. They could spike balls after interceptions or dance after a touchdown.

But perhaps most importantly for O’Brien, is that the new names play into the theme for Penn State football this season: "One Team."

After the NCAA sanctions, all players were given the opportunity to transfer without any penalties. These are the ones who stayed.

Said O’Brien: "It's definitely part of the philosophy that we have here at Penn State of keeping everybody involved."

-Emily Kaplan

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About this blog
Joe Juliano has been a staff writer for The Inquirer for 30 years, covering covering Penn State football, Villanova basketball and other college sports, along with golf and the Penn Relays. This is his seventh season on The Inquirer’s Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for United Press International from 1976-84.

Joining Joe this season is Erin McCarthy, an intern for The Inquirer and a junior at Penn State majoring in print and digital journalism. This is Erin's first season on the Penn State football beat. She previously spent two summers as an Inquirer summer intern on the Pennsylvania and South Jersey desks. She is also an editor for the Daily Collegian, the university's student newspaper. A Delaware County native, Erin graduated from Episcopal Academy.

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Joe Juliano Inquirer Staff Writer
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