HOUSTON -- Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis has a game he likes to play with the likes of old pals George Atkinson and Willie Brown.
It’s more of a pool, really, because when the gaggle of nameless, faceless undrafted rookie free agents flood training camp in Napa, the trio surveys the scene of 90 players. The goal? To guess which nameless, faceless undrafted rookie will make the initial 53-man roster.
For seven straight years, Davis beat Atkinson, Brown and others. Then, this year, he had an inkling about the “camp arm” brought in from Penn State, despite the presence of several more high-profile undrafted free agents.
Yes, Davis chose Matt McGloin and won the pool for an eighth straight year. And McGloin, with the help of the Raiders defense, gave Davis something even more valuable and satisfying in his first NFL start -- a 28-23 victory against the Houston Texans.
“This is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” said McGloin, who was pressed into action with Terrelle Pryor nursing a sprained right knee, as well as a cold, back in Oakland.
“I’ve been prepared for a while now to get in there. My team really supported me. That’s one of the big reasons why I prepared as hard as I could this week and gave everything I had.”
The individual payoff in becoming the first undrafted player to start under center for the Raiders since Larry Lawrence in 1975: a 105.9 QB rating on 18 of 32 passing for 197 yards and three touchdowns.
“You know what? Some of these guys just have it,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said of McGloin. “You know what I mean? Some of them just, there’s something deep down inside of them, that they don’t pay any attention to the fact that people say they can’t do it.
“As far as playing the quarterback position, he throws the ball with timing, he throws the ball with accuracy, he’s really smart. Obviously, again, not everything was perfect. He made mistakes in the game but overall, I was really pleased with the way he went in there and played.”
It would be trite to bring up the Happy Valley-sized chip on McGloin’s shoulder, to mention how he had to walk on to the Nittany Lions and became the nation’s top walk-on player. But to not do it would be to lessen his effect and story.
It’s one that began on a lark, really. The Raiders, having jettisoned Carson Palmer and acquired Matt Flynn while using a fourth-round draft pick on Tyler Wilson to join Pryor, simply wanted another arm for camp.
Allen said he and his staff were “really not expecting a whole lot” from McGloin.
“There was not one question in our mind by the end of the workout, really, by about the third throw that was the guy we wanted to sign. He’s continued to do that since he’s been here.
“It’s not shocking that he was able to come in here and play as well as he did.”
Least of all to the confident McGloin himself, or his teammates.
“In my eyes,” observed safety Charles Woodson, “he played flawless. He played flawless football, especially for this being his first start in the National Football League.”
But McGloin’s first pass as a starter in the league was a five-yard touchdown to Denarius Moore.
“He just comes in and steps in as a leader,” said Moore, who caught two of the six passes thrown his way. “It was his first start, but he acted like he has been in the league for three years.”
McGloin threw passes to seven different targets on the day and truly, it appeared as though the pass catchers were having trouble with the velocity on his ball early.
He was the last player in the locker room, after doing an on-field television interview, and the scene awaiting him was that of a conquering hero as he received tons of atta-boy’s and a game ball.
“It doesn’t get better than that,” McGloin said. “You see your team there after a tough victory. There’s so much more to it than you see each and every day, what goes into it, than just going into one game – the preparation, the hard work throughout the course of the week, and the discussions. That feeling you get in the locker room seeing those guys, I think that’s something that we have to remember each and every game.”
Or before you make you pick in the training camp rookie undrafted free agent pool.