For high school football players, the dream is making it to the next level to play college football.
Most of the time, the dream falls short. Some kids make it to lower level colleges to play football. Even fewer make it to the NCAA Division I level.
But for former Minford Falcon Jared McCray, the dream has become a reality. McCray, in his senior year at Ohio University, is projected to be the starting right tackle for the Bobcats. It will be McCray’s first time entering the season that he is tabbed as a projected starter.
“I’m excited to have a new role. I’ve came in there and been a backup, and played multiple positions wherever they needed,” McCray said. “I’m just excited to specifically learn one position and try to better my game and master my technique at that position.”
Things haven’t always gone as planned, though.
McCray has battled injuries throughout his career at OU. He has had knee surgeries, and suffered from “a couple concussions.” The constant fear of getting reinjured was weighing heavily on his mind. “At first, I was playing timid and it used to worry me,” McCray told the Daily Times.
He has worked hard to erase that mindset and get back to being the player he once was. “Every time you get set back, you have to come back stronger and play to the best of your abilities … otherwise you will get hurt again,” McCray said.
Despite the injuries, McCray has managed to remain optimistic about the situation. “I really think it’s made me more mentally tough,” McCray said. “Just from an aspect that anytime anything goes wrong, you can’t let that bother you. You just have to bounce back and be stronger.”
McCray’s former basketball coach at Minford, Josh Shoemaker, believes that McCray could have been a starter when he first stepped on campus. “I really think that if he didn’t fight the injury bug throughout his career, he would’ve already been starting all four years at Ohio University,” Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker said he thought McCray was “as good of a basketball player as he was a football player.” He had no doubt that Jared would go on to play D-I football.
“Every day he came to work and was pleasant to be around. He was a leader on and off the court. The other players looked up to him and he was just a pleasure to coach,” Shoemaker said about McCray.
On the high school football field, McCray was a man among boys it seemed. Former football head coach Brent Daniels remembered his talent, saying “We saw his size and his ability, and we knew that the D-I’s were going to come knocking eventually.”
The versatility and work ethic began to take shape at Minford during McCray’s freshman season. Daniels recalls that “I think it was about week five, we started him as a freshman … we had a couple injuries so we stuck him in his freshman year. I think we started him at center. From that point, he played center, right tackle, left tackle… he played every position for us all four years.”
Four years went by fast, and it was time for McCray to take his talents to the next level. In December of 2013, McCray committed to Ohio University.
Looking back, McCray says the whole experience “really helped mature who I am and what I’m about. Especially out of high school, you think you’re mature and you know what you’re doing … but once you hit college it’s a lot different.”
McCray and the Bobcats have high expectations for themselves this season. “We definitely have some big goals. We want to win a MAC championship and obtain a bowl victory,” McCray said. “We’ve went to two bowl games and we haven’t come out on top, so we would really like to change that.”
Ohio opens the season at home against Hampton on Saturday, Sept. 2.
Reach Ben Spicer at (502) 264-7318 OR on Twitter @BSpicerPDT