Mike McQueary: Well liked, known as a leader
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Less than a mile from Penn State University, one right turn off the town's main drag, sits the sprawling campus of State College Area High School. One of the largest high schools in the state, it's home to the Little Lions and it's where young football players dream of growing up to play for the Nittany Lions and legendary coach Joe Paterno.
Mike McQueary lived out that dream. After a standout high school career, Mr. McQueary played quarterback for Penn State from 1994 to 1997. Since 2000, he has worked at the university in a variety of capacities, including the past eight years as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.
Until last week, Mr. McQueary was best known as the red-haired coach with the headphones who was constantly relaying information to his 84-year-old boss on the sidelines during games. He is now known for relaying information to Mr. Paterno about an alleged sexual assault by one of his former coaches at an on-campus football facility.
Mr. McQueary is a central figure in the child sexual assault case against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. According to grand jury testimony, Mr. McQueary witnessed Mr. Sandusky committing a sexual assault on a young boy at Penn State's Lasch Football building in 2002.
Mr. Paterno issued a statement Sunday night acknowledging that Mr. McQueary, then a 28-year-old graduate assistant, came to him with information about Mr. Sandusky, but denied he was told the graphic details contained in a state grand jury report. Mr. Paterno and Mr. McQueary have not been charged. Both reported the incident to their superiors, but both were criticized by state police Commissioner Frank Noonan on Monday for failing to alert the authorities.
"I don't think I've ever been associated with a case with this type of eyewitness identification of sex acts taking place where the police weren't called," Commissioner Noonan said.
ESPN reported Tuesday afternoon that Mr. McQueary was not with the team, but his father, John, said that report was "totally untrue.
"As far as I know, Mike is at practice," he said Tuesday afternoon.
When asked whether his son would be coaching against Nebraska on Saturday: "I would expect him to be, but it wouldn't shock me if he wasn't."
John McQueary said he could not make any other comments because he is a witness in the Sandusky case.
Mike McQueary was remembered by his former coach at State College High as an "ideal student-athlete" and by a former teammate as a well-liked and hard-working player who made his family proud by earning a scholarship to his hometown university.
The former teammate described John McQueary as a "huge Penn State fan."
According to the grand jury report, Mr. McQueary first told his father of the incident and they went together to tell Mr. Paterno the day after the assault.
Ron Pavlechko coached McQueary at State College High, a Class AAAA school that has sent a number of players to Penn State over the years, including sons of Penn State coaches. Mr. McQueary is two years older than Jon Sandusky, the son of Jerry Sandusky; the two were teammates in high school and at Penn State. Jon Sandusky is the director of player personnel for the Cleveland Browns, but took a leave of absence from that job Tuesday.
Mr. Pavlechko said Mr. McQueary was the consummate high school football player.
"If you ever wanted to create a high school student-athlete, he was ideal," Mr. Pavlechko said. "He was an excellent student, a great person, an excellent football player, leader and a hard worker. I was very fortunate. I encountered a lot of good kids in my time at State College. Our teams were filled with hard-working, solid kids. But Mike stood out. It seems so easy to identify yourself with Mike because he extends himself to you. Every time I see him it feels good to be around him. He makes people feel that way."
Mr. Pavlechko retired earlier this year, but he remains close to Mr. McQueary. He has not spoken to him since the news broke of Mr. McQueary's involvement in the case.
"Knowing Mike and knowing him as a quarterback, he always tried to make the right read, to do the right thing," Mr. Pavlechko said. "For a while there [before getting into coaching], he did an internship in the medical field. Mike was given the charge of driving me from the doctor's office to Mount Nittany Medical Center after I had a heart attack.
"Knowing the concern that he had for me there and how he handled that situation, I'm saddened that he's caught up in this. I'm saddened for all of the individuals who are caught up in this. But in particular, I'm concerned for Mike. Mike has always been a classy person. This has been such a tumultuous event, I'm concerned for his well-being. I feel for him."
Kenneth Barto was a physical education teacher and baseball coach at State College High when Mr. McQueary was a student there. He had him in class and for a short time in his junior varsity baseball program. He remembered Mr. McQueary as a natural leader.
"I would say leadership was one of his strong points," Mr. Barto said. "Just from what I saw, he was a take-charge type of guy. The other guys on the team followed his leadership."
Success didn't come immediately for Mike McQueary at Penn State. As a freshman in 1994, he was on a team that went undefeated and played in the Rose Bowl. That team was quarterbacked by Kerry Collins, who plays in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts. He also served time as a reserve behind Wally Richardson in 1995 and '96.
Mr. McQueary earned the starting position as a senior in 1997 and led Penn State to a 9-3 record and a berth in the Citrus Bowl. In his first college start against Pitt, Mr. McQueary broke the school record for passing yards (366) and total offense (370) in a 34-17 victory against the Panthers. He was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented to the nation's best senior quarterback.
"Mike was vocal," said former teammate Bob Stephenson, a tight end for the Lions and a friend of Mr. McQueary. "He had no problem in that type of role. He knew where he fit in the Penn State hierarchy, and he finally got his shot his senior year."
Mr. Stephenson said the McQueary family had Thanksgiving dinners for players for several years when he was there and described Mr. McQueary as a well-liked member of the team.
After graduating from Penn State, Mr. McQueary had a tryout with the Oakland Raiders and played for a short time with the Scottish Claymores in NFL Europe before returning to State College to pursue a career in coaching.
Mr. McQueary, who is married and the father of a young daughter, was a graduate assistant from 2000 to 2002 and an administrative assistant in 2003 before being hired to his current post as receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.
First Published November 9, 2011 12:38 am