Life isn’t supposed to be as easy as Malcolm Glover makes it seem.
At the age of 19--he’ll be 20 Nov. 9--his life is a “happily ever after” story that’s happening now.
If this were an old western movie, he’d be wearing the white hat. A romance story, he’d get the girl. An adventure thriller, he’d come out unscathed.
If you don’t like success stories with happy endings, you won’t like this one.
From Gribble Street in Southeast San Diego, where he grew up, to Philadelphia, where he is the quarterback for the unbeaten University of Pennsylvania football team, Glover has been a success at, well, everything he has set his mind to. And his mind has been extremely active.
While he was a 2-year letterman in football, basketball and baseball at Lincoln High, he attended Gompers Secondary School, a math, science and computer magnet for advanced students. Taking those kind of classes along with Russian, he earned a 3.1 grade-point average and was accepted to Penn and Yale.
In high school, he was president of his Fellowship of Christian Athletes and spoke with teachers and administrators about minority problems. At Penn, he is an economics major and works with inner-city youth groups in the summer.
He was an ideal child, according to his mother, Bernetta. A gifted athlete, said his father, Malcolm Sr. And a best friend, claimed younger brother Jon, who graduated from the Bishop’s School in La Jolla and is a freshman defensive back at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
Malcolm Hilton Glover II--nicknamed Pappy because his mother said he looked like a papoose at birth--is a winner.
A 6-foot 1-inch, 175-pound junior, Malcolm Glover has led Penn to a 6-0 record, making the Quakers one of only three undefeated teams in NCAA Division I-AA (Western Illinois is 8-0, Marshall 7-0).
As a sophomore, Glover was 2-0 as a starter before a broken thumb ended his season. Without him, Penn won only 2 more games, finishing 4-6. The Quakers’ 3-4 record in the Ivy League ended their string of five league titles.
As a freshman, Glover split playing time with George Kolbe on the freshman team (the Ivy League prohibits freshman from playing varsity football), and the team finished 7-0.
His senior year at Lincoln, Glover led the Hornets to the 1985 San Diego CIF 2-A championship. Lincoln lost only 1 game on the field that year (it forfeited 2 because of an ineligible player), despite starting the year with only 14 players.
The one field loss was to Crawford, 23-15, during the regular season. In the championship game at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, Lincoln got revenge, 28-0. Glover threw 2 touchdown passes and was named the offensive player of the game. Against Kearny he threw for 389 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 49-12 victory.
He didn’t play much his junior year because Lincoln had a senior quarterback named Steve Taylor--the Heisman Trophy candidate from the University of Nebraska. Lincoln finished 7-3 before losing to Chula Vista in the playoffs.
Not convinced? OK. With Glover at quarterback, his junior varsity team at Lincoln went 8-2, and in 5 years of Pop Warner football at Valencia Park, his teams won three county championships and made it to the semifinals the other 2 years.
Said Skip Coons, who coached Glover at Lincoln, “Pappy does have that winning quality about him. You really feel good with him in there. You know he’s going to get the job done.
“Malcolm was a highly intelligent quarterback for us. He was very coachable. He would sit back and listen to what you would say and then go out and perform. He took charge.”
Penn Coach Ed Zubrow said, “He has that ability that some kids have. He knows how to win.”
For the year, Glover has completed 57 of 106 passes (53%) for 721 yards (125 per game), 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. While he doesn’t have great speed, he is a threat to run. Glover has gained more yards rushing, 117, than he has lost being sacked, 62.
While Penn is basically a running team--back Bryan Keys is among the Division I-AA leaders, averaging 116 yards per game--the Quakers will throw the ball.
Last week, in Penn’s homecoming game against Yale, Glover connected on a 22-yard touchdown pass to Dave Whaley during a 10-3 victory. The play came on fourth and 8 with 3:52 remaining in the first half.
“His statistics are going to suffer because of the type of offense we run,” Zubrow said. “But he’s not the kind of guy that tallies them up anyway. He’s the right guy for what we want to do. Win.
“He’s really matured in his approach to the game. He knew coming in the things that were important to him, playing quarterback and getting an education. But I don’t think he knew what it took. He does now. He’s really developed focus.
“I remember watching him as a freshman get in the huddle. I remember saying to myself, ‘What are we seeing here, a game at the beach in San Diego?’ He’s really changed. He takes charge of the huddle now. He went from happy-go-lucky to happy and skilled.”
Said Franklin Ferguson, Glover’s roommate and a cornerback at Penn: “He’s loose and easy-going. But on the field, his personality changes. When it’s time to play a game, he plays the game. When it’s time to go to work, he goes to work.
“He’s a very independent person. He knows what he wants, and he believes very much in himself. He’s not your typical Ivy League quarterback. I remember when I first saw him, I was surprised. I said to myself, ‘That’s Malcolm Glover, the quarterback? He’s black.’ ”
Glover is only the second black quarterback in the history of Penn football.
“The only person who believed he was going to be the quarterback was Malcolm,” Ferguson said. “He kept telling everybody he was going to start.”
Earning the respect of the coaches did not come easy, Glover said. "(Quarterback) Coach (John) Audino was the first coach to believe I was a real quarterback. Everybody else thought I would be a defensive back.”
“It’s been that way all his life,” Malcolm Sr. said. “Every year he had to go out and prove himself as a quarterback despite the fact that that’s the only position he’s ever played.”
Glover is now respected as a quarterback, a leader, a winner.
Having grown up in what he calls “a tough neighborhood,” Malcolm stayed away from the negative influences and focused on the positive.
“I just wasn’t a part of the aspect of the neighborhood,” he said. “My parents told me what was right and what was wrong. They were my role models, and I listened to what they had to say.”
Both Lincoln High graduates, Bernetta and Malcolm Sr. married at a young age but divorced when Malcolm was 4 and Jon was 2. Malcolm says that if there is such a thing as a good divorce, this was it. His parents remained friends, and while the boys lived with Bernetta, Malcolm Sr. would baby-sit and take the boys to the recreation center where he worked.
“Their mother was chiefly responsible for making sure they did their homework and kept their noses to the grindstone,” said Malcolm, 39, a personnel administrator for the city of San Diego.
Said Bernetta, a program coordinator for the preventive medicine residency program at San Diego State, "(The boys and I) had an agreement: I would work and provide the best that I could, and they would go to school, do their homework and stay out of trouble.
“It took a lot of diligence, seeing that they got the right classes in school, seeing that they were cared for after school. I didn’t want my boys coming home right after school. They were too active in the mind. They needed something to keep them busy. Sports was a natural release for them. But I always established a liaison with the coaches. If there was ever a problem, I wanted to know about it.”
She added that while misses them, “I’m just grateful that both my boys have had the opportunities that they’ve had.”
The opportunity for Malcolm came when Penn recruiter Bill Smith of San Diego began selling Malcolm on the idea of going to the Ivy League school.
“He’s the one that got the ball rolling,” Glover said. “I really didn’t think I was Ivy League material. I had this perception of the Ivy League as being stuffy and conservative, too serious. The opposite of everything I am. This is more or less like any other college. I just think people here are more focused on their future.”
Malcolm Glover certainly knows what he wants and what’s important to him--his education, his friends and his family.
Last spring, when the Bishop’s basketball team made it to the state playoffs, Malcolm took a week off from school to watch Jon play. “He spent the whole week with us,” Jon said. “He traveled with us and was our only fan at some of the away games. It was special, but I would have done the same thing for him.”
Jon added, “I haven’t seen him play this year, but I’m going to his last game against Cornell. It should be for the Ivy League championship.”