Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A fresh start: Kansas WR Justin McCay eager to hit field

Kansas receiver Justin McCay makes a catch during a spring practice on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas receiver Justin McCay makes a catch during a spring practice on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.



Kansas receiver Justin McCay makes a catch during a spring practice on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

It has been three years since Kansas University wide receiver Justin McCay ran onto a college football field for the first time.

But there’s something about the whole experience that has the former Bishop Miege standout feeling like this weekend’s season opener against South Dakota actually will be his first taste of college football.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling because it’s been a long ride for me,” said McCay, who transferred to Kansas from Oklahoma and sat out the 2012 season after red-shirting at OU in 2010 and playing in just three games in 2011. “It’s been a long journey, and it’s not even over. I just don’t want to let anyone down, especially my team. If we get the W in the win column, I’m happy.”

Things are certainly different for McCay today than they were at any point during his brief career with the Sooners. For starters, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior is listed as the top option at KU’s X receiver on the depth chart. Beyond that, he’s in a much better place in life than he was back then. McCay transferred to KU to be closer to his family in Kansas City, Mo. Although his late father will not be in the stands watching his first game as a Jayhawk, several others who share McCay’s bloodlines will.

“Oh, man. I can’t get enough tickets,” he said smiling, asked how many relatives would be at Memorial Stadium for Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff.

While just thinking about the personal cheering section which figures to be loud and proud throughout Saturday’s opener brought joy to McCay’s face, the fact that tugged hardest on his heart strings was knowing that his three younger sisters, ages 6, 7 and 9, would be there well past their bed time wearing their No. 19 Kansas jerseys that are a little too big.

“I know I want to get my little sisters to every game,” he said. “They’ll enjoy it. I don’t think they still know what’s going on, but they’ll know, ‘Hey, that’s my brother.’ That’s enjoyment in my heart.”

The Kansas depth chart features eight starters who have been waiting what seems like forever for Saturday night to arrive. Six of them are junior-college transfers who have been in Lawrence less than a year, and the other two are McCay and junior quarterback Jake Heaps, who transferred from BYU at the same time McCay came to town and developed a strong bond with him on the scout team a season ago.

Although Heaps, who set multiple freshman passing records at BYU, is eager for his next chance to play, he sympathizes with McCay’s delay.

“For Justin, it might have even been worse because he had a glimmer of hope that he might actually be able to play last year,” said Heaps, referencing McCay’s appeal for immediate eligibility that was denied by the NCAA. “But when we both knew that we weren’t going to play, we definitely bonded through that. We’re excited. We’re both in the same boat. We both can’t wait to get out there.”

They’re not the only ones. Offensive line coach Tim Grunhard, who coached McCay in high school, recently said he felt as if he were preparing to watch his own son take the field for the first time. And McCay said being out there with Grunhard would make the experience even more special given the fact that he always considered the former Kansas City Chiefs center a part of his family.

In some ways, McCay’s wait for Saturday night has been one you can put a number on. It has been 614 days since he last took the field in uniform hoping he might play. In others, it’s a moment he has been waiting for since he first fell in love with the game he now says he could not live without.

When his third-grade teacher asked her class who thought they had what it took to play football for a living one day, McCay wasted no time in raising his hand.

“That was me,” he said. “I don’t want to be a judge or a police officer. I want to play football. These are my dreams. I say I was born to do this. That’s just how I feel about football. Without football, I don’t know what I’d be doing.... I’m excited right now, but on Saturday the roof will be off.”


John Randall 8 years, 4 months ago

Don't you just wish Justin could show some enthusiasm?

This is one old fart hoping to watch and share the great moments these scout-teamers bring to Memorial Stadium this fall.

Micky Baker 8 years, 4 months ago

You haven't paid much attention the past couple of years, have you?

BringBackMark 8 years, 4 months ago

It's called sarcasm. Check it out in Websters.

Cameron Cederlind 8 years, 4 months ago

All I got was a picture of your parents holding you as a baby and a banner that says "Proud Parents".

Randy Bombardier 8 years, 4 months ago

Justin, we want to see you in the NFL too. In fact, I'd like to see you win the Heisman this year and next year and be the no. 1 pick. So bring it and all of our dreams will come true.

cozzhawk 8 years, 4 months ago

Can't wait to see him on the field Saturday. Hopefully Heaps can get him the ball.

Bryce Landon 8 years, 4 months ago

Still wish the NCAA hadn't been so asinine about letting him on the field last year. But what can you do when your football team is of no profit to the NCAA?

jaymar74 8 years, 4 months ago

Last year would have been a waste for him with no one to get him the ball

Dale Stringer 8 years, 4 months ago

Well as the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl proved, Crist is a better QB when he has receivers that can catch. Cummings was hindered to by this.

Jonathan Briles 8 years, 4 months ago

I'm sure he still ran out onto the field in 2010 even though he was red shirting.

BayPark 8 years, 4 months ago

Alright, I'm calling out all the kool-aid drinkers. You know who you are. The ones we hear from nearly every day on this site waxing poetic about how wonderful this transfer is or how magnificent our receivers are or how our Deon-like corners are going to finally play press coverage. A year ago as soon as things got a little tough, as soon as the writing was on the wall, you disappeared and we never heard from you again. Only the true KU football fans were left to dissect the carnage. What about this year? If we're not 4-0 are you going to pretend you were never really a fan? Are you going to shut the game off at halftime and go wash your car along with the rest of the fair-weather fans?

David A. Smith 8 years, 4 months ago

Very good points. There are many things about our fan base that should also be included in all of the changes that are taking place in order for our program to turn the corner.

Bee Bee 8 years, 4 months ago

I ll probably shut it off in the first quarter if it's bad enough. Hopefully this team can keep this a LITTLE closer than they have the last few years.

Sam Brockert 8 years, 4 months ago

I watched the Georgia Tech game two years ago all the way to the end. I do NOT shut games off EVER.

nuleafjhawk 8 years, 4 months ago

Do you at least turn the volume off and listen to something happy on Pandora?

Randy Bombardier 8 years, 4 months ago

Ok, I'll take that challenge. So, we kool-aid drinkers wax optimistic and express our hopes for the season talking about what might be just like a young man with his bride to be, his dreams, his aspirations, goals, etc. Then things don't quite work out as expected. We don't talk about our dreams much anymore. So, when things fall apart and I am discouraged you want me to come on here and comment about how discouraged I am? How I think Weis is messin' up? How he was a bad hire? I am sorry, dude but when things are going bad "If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all." Surely your mother taught you that. A few years ago after Bill Young left and our secondary was porous as a sieve I was one of those ranting about Bowen. I am done with that. Maybe you can tutor the rest of us as to what we can talk about when things don't go so well. Till then, I am going to dream about an awesome season. Being a pragmatist is really a boring way of life. You must be a tax attorney or a cpa.

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 4 months ago

"If you can't say anything nice, then don't say nothin' at all"

I learned that rule from Thumper in Bambi. His daddy always told him that.

Micky Baker 8 years, 4 months ago

Hyperbole from a basement dweller usually doesn't get much respect. Try adulthood, If you're 18, you are one now.

Bee Bee 8 years, 4 months ago

He can't be any worse than the bums KU has ran out there the last few years.

NebraskaJayhawk 8 years, 4 months ago

Hey Danno, I know your little kittens got horned in the butt and trounced into the ground by hoofs last week by the mighty rams, but maybe you should learn to lose with a little dignity and stay off our boards unless you have something relevant to say. We know our recent past and we aren't too proud of it. We also think there's a chance we can beat the pants off you guys this season, especially after last weekend.

Tony Bandle 8 years, 4 months ago


1] Stay for the entire game. I know, I know..this appears to some fans as a Herculanean task but you better believe the team notices those empty seats. Besides, the beer will still be cold a couple of hours later.

2] Make some serious noise..or, at least, drown out the 10% of the crowd made up of the opponent's fans.

3] Appreciate the effort being made to upgrade the some patience with the mistakes and support for the successes. Watch for the subtle improvements.

4] Actually, watch the game, learn the players, take some binocs and isolate on a particular player once in awhile and see what a magical sport football can be.

5] Always cheer the Band..these kids work their asses off for the love of the game and the show....freely, on their own time.

6] Rejoice in a victory, but know we still have much work yet to be done.

7] Acknowledge a defeat with grace, but know the team will try harder next time, and try never to accept it...we always have a chance!!!

shelleysue 8 years, 4 months ago

Ditto. Last year was much better for me, but just in case ... If I stand, I mean WHEN I stand, please don't rudely tell me to sit down. IT'S FOOTBALL. I'll be standing most of every game so telling me to sit will be pretty much pointless. If you want to sit, watch the game on TV. I plan to stand, yell, scream, and jump up and down throughout the game. I'm excited people. Saturday cannot get here soon enough!! ROCK CHALK!!

Brian Skelly 8 years, 4 months ago

As an Alum, it makes me crazy when people get up and leave at the halftime. Plenty of my friends from other schools give me hell about it -- justifiably so. To me disinterest and general apathy for the program is a bigger issue than the W's and L's.

Yes, the L's lead to it obviously. And in fairness, who wants to pay to see us win X number of games over a 3-4 year period. But if your going to go to begin with, why leave?

I've posted more than once on these boards that im not sure how good a coach Weis is. Great salesman, good OC, but I'll hold out on the HC part. Regardless, I watched more KU football last year -- in person, on TV, or on the internet -- than I have in years.

Why? Because I wanna 'believe' and anyone who doesnt think the next round of realignment isnt going to affect us if we have a rum dum football program still is naive. KU is a better place when the football team is at least competent.

AZJHWK 8 years, 4 months ago

Where can we see this game if we don't live in Kansas. Will it be on ESPN3? I have Cox cable. I realize it is my fault for moving.

Terry N Tom Denner 8 years, 4 months ago

The MU trolls are making fun of KU ( in the KC Star ) for scheduling FCS teams to play. MU's 2014 first game in football is with FCS South Dakota State Jack Rabbits. Look out MU for U might get your butts whipped by the Jack Rabbits !! KU fans can only hope that happens !!

seventytwohawk 8 years, 4 months ago

Thanks Oak for mentioning the KU Marching Band. I played sousaphone in the band from 1968 to 1972. We went to the Orange Bowl in 1968, and only won, I think, one game in 1969. Irregardless, it was a joy to be out on the field in front of 50,000 people representing my school. There is a degree of sacrifice involved with performing, but the rewards are great also. I also played in the Basketball band for two years, until it went to a jazz band format. I am happy to see it is back with the brass emphasis now. Always enjoy your comments on the Basketball articles also. I hope to see a KU game (maybe homecoming) this year and perhaps play in the Alumni Band again.

Brad Farha 8 years, 4 months ago

I like all of that about McCay, but what I like even more is that his size and disposition (according to Coach) make him an excellent down field blocker. The thought that Sims/Pierson/Bourbon/etc. will get bigger runs because of it has me giddy. Saturday afternoon can't get her soon enough!!!!

shelleysue 8 years, 4 months ago

Runs great routes. Catches everything that's thrown to him. Great blocker. Sounds like we have another Derek Fine out there ready to catch some passes and help his teammates. Can't wait to see him!

texashawk10 8 years, 4 months ago

I don't think KU will throw it enough to get McCay to 1st team all-Big 12. I'm not knocking McCay because I think he could get 3rd team or honorable mention, but I just don't see him getting the numbers to be first team compared to the likes of Eric Ward at Tech or whoever Bryce Petty throws to the most will end up with first team honors because they will put up some crazy numbers this year.

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