When he was a kid, Trace McSorley would go to training camp to watch the Washington Redskins practice. He stood on the sideline, just like kids at Ravens training camp, hoping for autographs.
An Ashburn, Va., native, McSorley would occasionally bump into Redskins players – like great, late safety Sean Taylor – around town.
On Thursday night, McSorley will go against his childhood team in a game that could shape the start and direction of his NFL career.
The rookie sixth-round pick out of Penn State has made the most of his increased opportunity to showcase his skills under center after Robert Griffin III suffered a broken finger in his hand early in training camp.
Now will he make the Ravens' 53-man roster? That's still undetermined.
"Trace has definitely, definitely earned the right to be in our plans one way or another, and we'll see how it shakes out," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday. "We don't know. It's a decision that still has to be made. But I think he's done everything he can do, for sure."
The Ravens could simply put McSorley on the 53-man roster, but they generally prefer not to carry three quarterbacks (they did so last year for the first time in a long time). Plus, Harbaugh said Saturday that Griffin is on track to be healthy and ready to go by the regular-season opener, so McSorley would likely be an inactive third quarterback.
By virtue of his increased reps at quarterback, McSorley hasn't had game reps on special teams, which was originally his primary avenue to make the 53-man roster.
Baltimore could also release McSorley and try to sign him back to the practice squad, allowing him to continue his development, but another team could claim him off waivers and put him on their 53-man roster. Has he done enough to warrant that?
There's no question that McSorley's playing style best suits Baltimore's offense, and the Ravens have already invested a lot in him. McSorley's best situation is in Baltimore.
It's all a tricky situation, and one that McSorley said he's trying not to think too much about.
"There's only so much that you can control as a player, and what that is, is what you put out on the field and how you practice, how you play in the game," McSorley said. "All the other stuff are decisions that are outside your control as a player. You just want to come in and do everything you can."
McSorley has improved in each preseason game. He was 9-of-22 for 85 yards and an interception (33.3 quarterback rating) in his debut against the Jaguars. He went 8-of-13 with a touchdown and interception versus the Packers (70.7).
Then McSorley shined last week in Philadelphia, going 19-of-28 for 203 yards and two touchdowns (112.6). He threw a beautiful 28-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd and pinpointed another nice touchdown toss to Jaleel Scott.
"He's done a good job. It's hard. It's a hard position to operate," Harbaugh said. "I'll say this, too: the preseason is different than the regular season."
Harbaugh cited the example of Ryan Leaf, the No. 2-overall pick of the then San Diego Chargers in 1998. Leaf was "shredding people" in the preseason while facing more simple coverages. Once the regular season started and blitzes came at him, "it was a long year." Harbaugh's brother, Jim, was on that team, but backing up Leaf.
"They should've kept Jim as a starter that year," Harbaugh said with a smile. "I promise you, they're sorry they didn't!"
Asked what he feels he's proven this preseason, McSorley said, "just being able to come in as an offense and as a quarterback, be able to lead the team, move the ball efficiently, get points on the board."
That's McSorley's mission in Washington. He's approaching the homecoming of sorts as "just another game" and keeping his focus on winning the game and making one last pitch that he deserves a roster spot.
Asked whether he feels he's done enough to make the team, McSorley said, "it's kind of hard to say.
"It's a big body of work," he said. "I've just tried to come in and prove every day and take the next step in practice and in games, continue to improve and get better and do everything I can to show the coaches that I want to be here and that I can make a difference here and be on this team."