Don Van Natta Jr. of ESPN the Magazine (remember this piece?) has a big profile of Mike McQueary in the latest issue of ESPN the Magazine. Here are a couple notable revelations, starting with the fact that in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, McQueary, then an assistant coach, told Penn State football players that he was abused as a child too.
Behind closed doors, he singled out each player by name. “You are a good kid, this is why you are here, you belong here,” he said. “I’m not sure what is going to happen to Joe. I’m not sure what is going to happen to me.” Then, as he told them what he had seen and heard in that locker room shower a decade ago, Big Red began to cry.
The players listened in silence, their heads down. “He said he had some regret that he didn’t stop it,” says Patrick Flanagan, then a redshirt freshman receiver. “We didn’t want to see someone we looked up to get emotional. It was heartbreaking for all of us. We weren’t sure who to believe. You see an older man crying, someone you looked up to. It’s sad.”
Finally, McQueary confided in his players something he hoped would make them understand how he’d reacted at the time. He told them he could relate to the fear and helplessness felt by the boy in the shower because he too was sexually abused as a boy.
The other big reveal was that McQueary had a bad gambling problem, and occasionally wagered on Penn State games while he was playing football there.
According to several of his classmates and teammates, McQueary developed a compulsive gambling habit at Penn State. He bet and lost thousands of dollars on poker and sports wagering, mostly on pro football, though he also bet, several of his former teammates say, on Nittany Lions games. One former teammate specifically recalls that Big Red bet and lost on his own team in a November 1996 game against Michigan State at Beaver Stadium. With McQueary serving as a backup on the sideline, favorite PSU won on a late field goal 32-29 but didn’t cover the eight-point spread.
As his losses mounted, McQueary owed thousands of dollars to a bookie, a debt that was eventually erased by his father, several people say. A college friend recalls urging McQueary to slow down. “It got pretty bad,” the friend says, “and it just kept snowballing and snowballing. He was very impulsive.”
Van Natta also reminds us that “Big Red” once played quarterback for NFL Europe’s Scottish Claymores, a mostly irrelevant tidbit that will have nostalgic resonance for anybody who played Madden ten years ago.