Life comes at you fast.
For Minford graduate and Ohio University senior Jared McCray, it seems like just yesterday that the offensive lineman was walking the halls of Minford High School.
“In high school my freshman year watching senior night I was like man, that’s going to take me forever to get there,” McCray said. “Then high school flew by in just the blink of an eye.”
Much like high school, college has also passed him by rather quickly.
“I thought the same thing my freshman year in college because college is a lot harder in terms of school work and staying up with practice,” McCray said. “When senior night came around, I was like wow my time here has really flown by.”
Last Wednesday in a game against Toledo, McCray was honored as one of 20 seniors on the roster for the Bobcats.
It was a celebration of family at Ohio that McCray has come to know and love over the past four years as a Bobcat.
“I think we kind of had a special connection there,” McCray said. “Just being true seniors and kind of coming in together, we played every year together and it was kind of just a different connection for us.”
Due to a concussion, McCray was unable to play in the game against the Rockets, a 38-10 victory over their MAC rival.
Still, it was something to cherish being honored on the field with the teammates and seniors that McCray has spent countless hours with in Athens.
McCray says he will miss “the brotherhood” he experienced at OU the most.
“It’s one of the same things I miss in high school,” McCray said. “You just spend so much time with the rest of your teammates and you just get so connected to each other.”
“In college, it’s a whole new level of brotherhood. You guys are together year round pretty much with the exception of a couple weeks, and you get to learn so much about so many new people.”
Though his teammates hail from all across the country, McCray sees a lot of similarities to his hometown of Minford and Scioto County when he thinks about Athens.
“I think there’s a big comparison,” McCray said. “I think the town of Athens is like a smaller college feel, and that kind of goes with Minford. There’s a lot of people that know each other up here, and that goes back to Minford.”
“Anywhere you go in Scioto County, it seems like everybody knows everybody. It may not be as tight here at OU, but it definitely feels that way.”
While McCray has grown close to the members of the football team, he’s also enjoyed spending time with the coaching staff of the Bobcats.
Looking back, McCray cites the stability of the program as a big factor in the team’s success and his decision to play football there.
“In the recruiting process, I know a lot of people worry about “Oh what if this coach signs elsewhere” and the stability of the coaches,” McCray said. “For this program to keep Coach [Frank] Solich and our offensive and defensive coordinator for I think it’s around 13 years now, I think it just says a lot about the program.”
“It’s definitely been a fun four years. The coaching staff has always been very supportive, and they’re looking out for all our best interests. I couldn’t have asked for a better coaching staff in my four years here.”
It has been a special senior season for McCray and his team as well, as OU currently boasts an 8-3 record and has a chance to compete in the MAC Championship if Akron loses their next game to Kent State.
As of Nov. 17, the Bobcats are near the top in the nation of several key offensive categories. OU has the 38th best total offense in the nation, averaging 431.5 yards per game and 6.35 yards per play.
The Bobcats have gotten it done on the ground all season, ranking 12th in the NCAA in rushing offense. OU averages 251.9 yards per game, and their 38 rushing touchdowns scored this season are the third most in the country.
Of course, the offensive line has been a big factor in that offensive success the Bobcats have enjoyed this year.
“I think coming in, being an offensive lineman we have really proved our worth,” McCray said. “I know we’re averaging well over 200 yards rushing, and I think the rushing game has really played a big factor in to some of those wins.”
“We’re kind of clicking well together. We’ve been around each other for a while, so we know what everybody is going to do.”
Leading up to this season, McCray and his peers on the offensive line were battle tested in practice over the course of their careers by several defenders who would go on to play in the NFL.
“Going against Tarrell Basham every day in practice who ended up getting picked up by the Colts really helped progress this offensive line and how we approach the game,” McCray said. “Props to him, and Casey Sayles ended up getting picked up by the Rams in free agency and Blair Brown also plays for the Jaguars right now. They really helped our offensive line progress to what we are this year.”
McCray remembers his first big game with the Bobcats, facing off against a future first round pick.
“The first game I got in was against Kentucky my freshman year and it really kind of opened my eyes in terms of what college football was going to be,” McCray said. “I was going against Bud Dupree who ended up getting drafted in the first round by the Steelers, and I got a holding call when we were driving into the half against him.”
“They put my face on, I think it was the SEC Network but I can’t remember. We ended up losing, so I wasn’t very happy about that, but everyone was sending me these pictures about how the screen was yellow because we got a flag and how they were talking about me getting beat.”
A learning experience for sure, those battles in the trenches against Dupree showed McCray what the next level was all about.
“I think that kind of set the stage for me as far as what to expect in college football,” McCray said. “It was definitely an eye opener there.”
Unfortunately, McCray will not suit up for the Bobcats the rest of the year in his final season.
“My football career is actually over now because I’ve got four concussions in my time here, and personally I just thought it was time to shut it down,” McCray said. “It was kind of a decision I made talking to my doctors and talking to my family.”
Although he won’t be on the field, he’s still very much a part of the team and their activities.
“I’m still part of the team and everything and I’m still doing things with the team. Along with that, I’m also coaching a fifth and sixth grade basketball team back in Minford.”
McCray’s playing days might be over, but you could still see him on the sidelines in the years to come.
“We’ll see after this next semester, but hopefully I can find something to get into in terms of coaching,” McCray said. “I don’t know what kind of job I’m going to do yet, but I do know that I would really love to coach.”
He also hasn’t ruled out a return to Minford.
“As of right now, that’s really what I would like to do,” McCray said. “I guess we’ll have to see if an opportunity presents itself.”
There are plenty of options on the table for McCray. He’s majoring in communication with a minor in sports administration and coaching education. McCray might consider going back to school for something in a teaching route, or a sports business side of things.
Regardless of what he chooses to do, McCray will give his all and will be successful. Just as he did in his days at Minford, and as he’s done in his career at OU.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer