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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.

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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.”

Comments

Keith Hummel 7 months, 2 weeks ago

About 5 comments so far regarding Justin McCay. The rest on how we either are, or are not horrible football fans.

So in a desperate attempt to get this back on track, I'm predicting that McCay will be a first team, all Big12 selection by seasons end. I think he's just that talented, and just that motivated, and will have one of the best QB's in the league throwing to him (ahhhh...that kool-aid sure tastes good).

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seventytwohawk 7 months, 2 weeks 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.

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Terry N Tom Denner 7 months, 2 weeks 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 !!

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AZJHWK 7 months, 2 weeks 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.

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BPSkelly 7 months, 2 weeks 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.

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Tony Bandle 7 months, 2 weeks ago

SUGGESTIONS FOR KU FOOTBALL NATION TO WORK ON.

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 program..show 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!!!

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danno1313 7 months, 2 weeks ago

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

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BayPark 7 months, 2 weeks 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?

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jaymar74 7 months, 2 weeks ago

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

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Bryce Landon 7 months, 2 weeks 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?

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cozzhawk 7 months, 2 weeks ago

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

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Randy Bombardier 7 months, 2 weeks 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.

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John Randall 7 months, 2 weeks 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.

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