UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- For the past 18 years, Wally Richardson has been the answer to a popular Penn State trivia question.
Come game time Saturday, he no longer will hold the distinction of being the most recent true freshman to start a game at quarterback for the Nittany Lions.
That honor will fall to Robert Bolden, who will carry the process an extra step.
According to Lou Prato, author of the Penn State Football Encyclopedia, Bolden will be the first true freshman quarterback to start an opener for Penn State in 100 years.
The last, 5-foot-5 College Football Hall of Famer Eugene "Shorty" Miller, debuted with a 58-0 win Oct. 1, 1910, against the Harrisburg Athletic Club.
Richardson said Thursday he couldn't believe coach Joe Paterno had actually picked a true freshman to open the season at quarterback. It is the first time that has happened in Paterno's 45 seasons as coach.
Bolden, from Orchard Lake, Mich., is just the third true freshman to start a game at quarterback for Paterno, joining Richardson (1992) and Tony Sacca (1988), who were forced into action only because of injuries.
"I didn't expect it, a true freshman starting the opener," said Richardson, associate director of academic services at the University of Georgia. "I'm really surprised. But I think that's a credit to what Robert Bolden's been able to do in summer workouts and 3 1/2 weeks of practice.
"To be in that position this early and to have Joe give him the starting nod on opening day, I think it's great. A lot of people will be excited to see how he plays."
Paterno picked Bolden as his starter Wednesday night. He beat out redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin, a former walk-on, and sophomore Kevin Newsome, the backup to Daryll Clark a year ago. Another true freshman, Paul Jones from Sto-Rox High School, had academic issues and is scheduled to redshirt.
Paterno said he also hopes to play McGloin and Newsome Saturday against Division I-AA Youngstown State.
Bolden, 6 feet 3 and 221 pounds, was ranked the fourth best quarterback in the country by ESPN.com last season and the second-best dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com.
He was a three-year starter for St. Mary's Prep and led the all-male school to two runner-up finishes in the Division 3 state championship. In his final two seasons, he accounted for more than 2,000 yards passing and 14 touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.
"I want to play as a freshman," Bolden told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in late January. "I am coming there to play. I don't want to redshirt. And I don't think I am going to."
Bolden chose Penn State over Michigan State. He also considered Northwestern, Oregon, Louisville and Vanderbilt.
Since arriving on campus this summer, he has impressed his teammates and coaches with his leadership skills and strong arm.
"The offense just clicked for him early," said wide receiver Derek Moye from Rochester High School in Beaver County. "He's such a fluid athlete. You can tell in his throwing motion and how well he runs."
Richardson, who spent two seasons with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, one year in the now defunct XFL and two weeks in the Arena Football League, had some idea of what Bolden will experience Saturday in his first start at Beaver Stadium.
"Robert will have some first-game jitters, it's only natural in front of more than 100,000 people," Richardson said.
"He doesn't have to go out there to try to win the game all by himself. He just has to make the plays that he's supposed to and not make any mistakes."
Richardson will get his first up-close look at Bolden Sept. 11 when he attends No. 19 Penn State's game against defending national champion and No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
"Robert will be in the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium this Saturday for his first start and the fans will be on his side," Richardson said. "But next weekend at Bryant-Denny Stadium, it's going to be a lot tougher. He is going to be playing in front of a hostile, raucous crowd at Alabama.
"Alabama will throw all kinds of exotic defenses at Robert and he'll have to be ready for it."