CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It's validation for Shane McGregor.
Validation for five years of hard work. Validation for the respect his coach has in him. Validation for the decision he made to challenge himself at a big school instead of going to a smaller program.
And last but not least, it will save him about $25,000, which is always a good thing.
"It's like validation that you've arrived, you belong here, and that's pretty cool," said McGregor, a Central Cambria product who has spent four years as a walk-on at Penn State before being given a scholarship for his final year by coach Bill O'Brien.
The third-string quarterback had almost given up hope of ever earning a scholarship. He had accepted that he would be a five-year walk-on, only to be surprised by O'Brien during training camp.
"We were in a meeting, and he pulled me out and said he wanted to talk to me," McGregor said after Saturday's win. "At first I thought I was in trouble or something, but he said, 'Hey, we want to put you on scholarship,' and at first I didn't believe him. It was totally out of the blue, and I never thought that was coming."
O'Brien confirmed the scholarship news concerning McGregor at the end of his postgame press conference. He was asked about McGregor on his weekly radio show Thursday and spoke glowingly of the 23-year-old.
O'Brien praised McGregor's intelligence and said he's like another coach on the field. He also talked about how McGregor is an interesting young man who wants to be an author and who just so happens to be nominated for homecoming king for next week's game against Northwestern.
"It's pretty cool," McGregor said of his relationship with O'Brien. "We've talked in-depth and had some pretty good conversations, and I feel like we're on the same page. It's awesome having him as a coach, just who he is as a person.
"I understand my role on the team. That's something he's really big about is understand your role, do your job, and so I tried to embrace that as best I could."
Defensive back Stephon Morris called McGregor "one of the hardest workers on the team" and said the quarterback will always be out throwing 100 extra passes after practices.
"He's very smart," Morris said. "He has worked on his mechanics and things like that every day. ... Shane's really grown a lot. He's helping us a lot on scout team."
McGregor saw the first playing time of his career in last season's opener against Indiana State and even had a 3-yard TD run. He also played against Eastern Michigan and finished the season 1-of-4 for 12 yards.
He isn't likely to see much, if any, playing time this year behind starter Matt McGloin and backup Steven Bench, but O'Brien still was impressed enough by his work ethic to reward him with a scholarship.
"It means a lot because I know Shane is the ideal walk-on football player," McGregor's father, Bernie, said. "He's a real student, so he takes a lot of pride in his academics and has a 3.9 grade-point average.
"He works very, very hard to get better, both in the classroom and to try to develop his football skills. ... That validation is important. I just feel good for my son and am happy for Shane for all his hard work and his great determination that it has paid off with a scholarship from Coach O'Brien."
The scholarship also will pay off in McGregor's bank account down the road.
He's had to pay his own way at school for four years, but everything - tuition, room, board, books - will be paid for this year. That can amount to about $25,000 for an in-state resident.
"It's huge. That's a burden I don't have to pay now," McGregor said. "Back in camp whenever I got it, two days before I remember my mom saying, 'Do you think there's any way you might be put on scholarship?'
"We just had to keep praying that something would happen, and sure enough it did."