How ‘Gentle Giant’ Jamar McGloster grew to be a key cog on Syracuse’s offensive line

first_imgOut of the corner of his eye, Pat Perles spotted a large shadow. It belonged to Jamar McGloster, a senior who was visiting the main office to drop off an attendance form for his 12th grade math class in May 2013 at St. Anthony (New Jersey) High School. Perles did a double take through a main office window. McGloster’s 6-foot-7 frame caught his eye, said Perles, Syracuse’s offensive line coach who was visiting St. Anthony to meet its new head coach. Perles jogged down the hallway to track down McGloster.“What school are you going to?” Perles asked McGloster.“Um, I don’t know where I’m going,” McGloster remembered saying. Incredulous, Perles asked again. Same answer. “Well, we can make that change today,” said Perles.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMcGloster, then a senior at St. Anthony, had no highlight tape, little varsity football experience and zero scholarship offers on his resume. He was a basketball player who only began playing football two years earlier because, as the school’s legendary high school basketball coach Bob Hurley recalled, he was not aggressive enough on the hardwood. Hurley figured football would toughen him. Before arriving at Syracuse in 2013, McGloster’s football career had amounted to two years, one of which was ended by an MCL sprain. But thanks to that encounter at his high school, he earned a visit to Syracuse. That led to a meeting with former head coach Scott Shafer, who offered him a scholarship. That led to a five-year career at SU, including a redshirt season in 2013. McGloster, whose timidity belies his 6-foot-7, 309-pound frame, has started at right tackle for the Orange (4-7, 2-5 Atlantic Coast) over the past two seasons. Teammates said he brings a veteran presence to an otherwise young offensive line. McGloster is among those responsible for protecting SU’s quarterbacks. “I came up here on an unofficial in June (2013),” McGloster said, “and they offered me three days before I had to be up here. And I was here three days later. I thought they were just going to tell me go to prep school and say ‘We’ll keep looking at you.’ And they offered me, no film or anything. It’s crazy.” Wasim Ahmad | Staff PhotographerMcGloster is Syracuse’s biggest player, yet he was born six weeks premature at only five pounds, 11 ounces. His mother, Yolanda Hickman, a paralegal, stands at 5-foot-11. His father, a retired police officer, is 6-foot-5. McGloster grew up fast in Hillside, New Jersey, just south of Newark. He “barely” wore sneakers before outgrowing them and reached 6-foot-3 by the seventh grade. He now wears a size 15. Despite his size and strength, McGloster has been quiet all of his life. He walks slowly, his head slightly tilted down, and he does not smile much. Senior linebacker Zaire Franklin joked that some of the only times he’s seen McGloster animated were this fall. Once was on his weekly YouTube show called “Z:60.” The other came Sept. 30 against North Carolina State in a dispute with NCSU defensive lineman Bradley Chubb. His father said the most excited his son has ever been was after the Clemson upset. His brother, Horace, said that even when Shafer offered him in his office in summer 2013, McGloster “still didn’t have a ‘Wow’ reaction.” When his family would sit and watch TV or eat dinner, his father said, McGloster would sometimes be the only one not smiling. “He would never laugh,” said his father, Horace. “I’d ask, ‘You sure Jamar’s alright?’ But he would never laugh. I’ve almost never seen him mad, sad or excited. When I would drive him places, he’d listen to music and won’t say nothing. He just sits there, never talks.”That reserved nature translated onto the basketball court, McGloster’s first sport. It was the game his older brother played growing up. Horace earned a scholarship to play at Houston. Jamar chased those dreams practicing on a basket in his backyard. Hurley, the coach who won 28 state titles at St. Anthony from 1972 until the school closed down this spring, noticed McGloster at a summer basketball camp in 2009. He was entering ninth grade, playing at a park in Jersey City, New Jersey, McGloster’s father said. Hurley spotted McGloster, about 6-foot-4 at the time. Soon Hurley phoned McGloster’s father, asking if he wanted to enroll his son at St. Anthony and play on the basketball team. “I thought he was playing a joke at first,” Horace said. McGloster enrolled for the fall of 2012 and became a useful practice player, altering shots against St. Anthony guards, Hurley said. But he didn’t enter the rotation until he was a senior. He played minimally and entered games late after St. Anthony had a commanding lead. Hurley remembers McGloster saying “excuse me” “all of the time” on the court. When he’d knock an opponent down, he’d help him up. He was hesitant with the basketball and rarely took shots.At the end of McGloster’s sophomore year, Hurley and his assistant, Ben Gamble, sat with him. They knew he wasn’t playing to his potential and figured putting him on the gridiron would make him grab more rebounds and shoot more on the hardwood.  McGloster began working out with the football team that summer and played two seasons on varsity. He senior year was cut short due to the MCL sprain. Before that, Hurley remembered McGloster standing on the football sideline, almost never in the game. He was not aggressive enough to start. “He played a few plays per game,” Hurley said. “People in in the stands would look at this enormous kid on the sideline in a clean uniform. He was just this gentle giant.”Wasim Ahmad | Staff PhotographerThe day Perles came to St. Anthony, Perles could not understand how a man of McGloster’s size was not committed and had not received any scholarship offers. They met for about 30 minutes in St. Anthony’s main office. Perles said he was impressed with what McGloster possessed. More than anything else, he liked his size and his tutelage under Hurley, the school’s legendary high school basketball coach. During their conversation, McGloster told Perles that he commuted 45 minutes per day via train to get to school.Perles asked a secretary for McGloster’s grades, which were quality, he said. That same afternoon, Perles asked a secretary about McGloster’s attendance. He had missed only three days of high school, two of which were because he was sick. The third was because of a relative’s death. Perles grew more interested, but he was skeptical. McGloster had picked up zero football or basketball offers and was considering a “prep year,” or fifth year of high school. Nobody recognized his name. There was no of video of him. Perles called other high school football coaches. Nothing. He questioned how a kid of McGloster’s size and maturity was such an unknown. “It was the most baffling, strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Perles, now a player personnel scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Perles asked McGloster to send over video. At this point, anything would suffice. McGloster sent over an iPhone video of him slam-dunking a basketball in his backyard. Fourteen dunks. Perles said he drove to the backyard to ensure the rim was 10 feet above the ground, because McGloster made it seem more like seven or eight feet.That was all the evidence Syracuse needed. McGloster was invited to a camp near SU, and Shafer asked him to make an unofficial visit. In his office at Manley Field House, Shafer sat with McGloster, his brother and his father. When Shafer offered him that day, McGloster wore a wide grin. He accepted and returned to SU three days later for workouts, the start of a five-year career for the Orange. “To this day, I still think about what happened,” said McGloster’s mother. “It was so fast. We were so blessed.”McGloster has come from basketball benchwarmer to football backup to a regular on the Syracuse offensive line in what are now his final weeks of college football. He said he was “really struggling” at SU and contemplated quitting because he played in only six games over his first two seasons. But NFL agents have been calling all season, his father said. Above all, he said he will never forget how his career began: thanks to an attendance sheet, and a double take through a glass door in the main office at St. Anthony. Comments Published on November 20, 2017 at 2:38 pm Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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