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Falcons In 2012

McGary & The Bear

29 posts in this topic

It is tough not to root for the young man.  Stole this from Moskakos_Finest

 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — He’d been watching the bear for about a month now, ever since he’d spotted the tracks and the scraps of blackberries scattered across the hillsides. He knew the bear’s patterns, knew it would be here at this creek soon enough, and here it was. He raised the .338 he’d borrowed from a friend to his cheek, his heart pounding hard enough to jostle the barrel. He squeezed the tri99er and the bear lay down as if sleeping. One shot, done. He’d brought it down, all 350 pounds of it, all by himself.

Kaleb McGary hunts bears alone in remote Washington state. So, yeah, an onrushing defensive tackle isn’t exactly the most intimidating sight he’s ever faced.

Kaleb McGary. (Illustration by Amber Matsumoto)
 
Kaleb McGary. (Illustration by Amber Matsumoto)

McGary, a first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons earlier this year, describes his tumultuous life as a country song, and it’s added a couple new verses since he arrived in Atlanta. There is the injury Sunday night against Philly that left his knee sounding like breakfast cereal, and of course the heart surgery this past summer. No big deal.

“Just a bump in the road,” McGary says, smiling.

The hulking offensive tackle has the potential to be one of the league’s stalwarts. If he does, it’d still be only about the fourth or fifth most interesting thing about him.

Just a good ol’ boy

McGary, 6-foot-8 and 300-plus pounds, looks and sounds like an enormous version of Parks and Recreation-era Chris Pratt, a country-boy aw-shucks attitude concealing a guy who’s watching everything around him — including you — very closely. He walks through the Falcons locker room wearing a cowboy hat and boots with shorts, sporting a sleeveless ‘MERICA F**K YEAH T-shirt (with the lower 48 in place of the **, of course). It’s not an affectation. He’s been this way since high school.

To McGary, the advantages of growing up in rural Washington — a town called Amboy, located in the southwest corner of the state, population 1,600 — were as immense as the Cascades. “I got to go hunt and fish when I wanted. Deer, elk, bear would walk through our yard. It’s the best kind of place I could’ve possibly grown up.” Then he gets poetic: “There’s nothing better than the smell of the pines on a frosty spring morning with everything in bloom. That can’t be beat.”

McGary spent countless hours fishing, hunting, driving through the mountains with friends, chopping wood in the summer to store for the winter. That kind of life — “paradise,” McGary calls it — gets into your soul.

So when McGary’s father Justin contracted multiple sclerosis, leading to the loss of his job and the family’s Amboy farm, Kaleb tried his best to bring the serenity of the wilderness along with him when the family was forced to move north to the (relatively) big city of Fife.

“He was a through-and-through country boy,” says Kent Nevin, then and now the football coach at Fife High School in Fife, located near Tacoma. “He wore a cowboy hat around school. He sang country music, he took great pride in this white junker truck he drove around. It was all in being who he was.”

McGary had to hold onto whatever he could of his life in Amboy, because in Fife, the family had almost nothing. They’d planned to move in with Kaleb’s grandparents. But their home was so stuffed with hoarded treasures of a half-century, there was no room for the McGarys. Instead, they lived in RVs on the property, parents in one, kids in the other.

Nevin still recalls the day he met the enormous transfer student that was coming to wreck the opposition. “The first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Coach, my name’s Kaleb McGary. I’m really looking forward to playing with you.’ And then he shook my hand. You don’t see many 16-year-olds with that kind of maturity.”

That presence extended onto the field, too. On more than one occasion, McGary — already towering over everyone around him — would walk over to a referee, put a catcher’s mitt-sized hand on the smaller man’s shoulder, shake his head sadly, and say, “I don’t believe that was the right call, sir.”

McGary had uncommonly agile feet for someone his size, and hands that could practically slap a salmon out of a river. He lined up at tight end in high school, and all his quarterbacks had to do was loft the ball in his general direction. He’d been through **** the last few years, but at Fife, everything seemed to be stabilizing.

And then his heart started fluttering.

Kaleb McGary at Washington, wrecking fools. (Getty)
 
Kaleb McGary at Washington, wrecking fools. (Getty)

Life-changing moment

In the fourth quarter of a January 2013 basketball game, McGary lost consciousness, toppling face-first onto a row of wooden bleachers in Fife’s gym. While en route to the emergency room in Tacoma, McGary’s heart was beating 300 times a minute. Cardiologists recommended immediate surgery to replace a valve, and hinted that McGary’s days of playing football were over.

McGary was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a condition where the heart muscles flutter at random, unpredictable intervals. He underwent three cardiac ablation procedures — an operation that involves burning a small area of the heart to calm the irregular beats.

One night in the midst of all the woes, Nevin and McGary talked. And the perspective McGary brought to his own life once again surprised Nevin.

“I can sit here and have a pity party,” he said, “or I can turn and fight. I can control what I can control. I can’t control these other things. If I take care of my business, things will work out.”

“That was pretty big for a young man,” Nevin said. “He got that he couldn’t wallow and have self-pity. He could have gotten sidetracked. He didn’t.”

The cardiac ablation treatments were enough to get him prepared and ready for duty at the nearby University of Washington in Seattle — a transition he made with characteristic country-boy insight.

“The traffic. My lord, the traffic,” McGary says. “And I was outraged that I had to pay to park. To spend money, I had to pay money.”

While at Washington, he beefed up and leveled up. He started 47 of his 53 games, and along the way, a realization began to dawn in his mind.

“I didn’t even give any thought to the NFL until my junior year,” he says. “It sounds kind of silly, but I hadn’t even thought about it. But I’d watch games of my opponents, and they’d be playing SEC and ACC teams. I’d see their tackles, who were really highly ranked, and I started thinking, I do my job as good as [ACC and SEC linemen] against some of the same people.”

He won the Morris Trophy, the Pac-12’s peer-voted award for linemen, his senior year. He was selected in the first round — 31st overall — by the Falcons as part of their O-line overhaul. He struck a deal with Atlanta: four years, $10.3 million, with a $5.5 million signing bonus and $8.7 million guaranteed. That was enough to put his parents into a new house this summer—good thing, too, since in yet another verse of the country song that is McGary’s life, the family home had nearly burned to the ground.

And then his heart started acting up again.

McGary protecting Matt Ryan. (Getty)
 
McGary protecting Matt Ryan. (Getty)

Delayed start in the NFL

The treatment for this latest flare-up: another ablation, and several weeks on the shelf during the most important days of his career.

“I was bummed, very bummed,” McGary says, recalling when he got the news that all was not well with his heart. “But [the procedure] was what all the specialists, all the experts said was the best course of action, so I trusted their judgment. It was not something that I wanted to go through again, but worse things could have happened. It’s just a bump in the road.”

By late August, McGary made his way back onto the field, and even though he was weeks behind his teammates, still played his way into the starting lineup of his first game. He gave up a sack, but won praise from his teammates.

“Fortunately, but unfortunately, as an offensive lineman, there’s no mystery if you messed up,” McGary says. “You’ve just got to tell the truth: you messed up this play, fix the problem, don’t do it again.”

“He’s done a nice job,” Matt Ryan said after the Vikings loss. “He’s worked his way back into condition. He’s played tough for us.”

Sunday night added another chapter to the McGary saga, when an Eagles pass rush threw Ryan into McGary’s left knee, which buckled. McGary had to be helped off the field, and athletic trainers loaded him onto a cart that wheeled him into the depths of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Combined with the injury to fellow first-rounder Chris Lindstrom, who broke his foot in the season opener, it seemed a case of the same old snakebitten McGary, just a different team.

But McGary wasn’t done, not for the season, not for the night. He passed athletic trainers’ tests, he put more weight on the leg, he returned to the sideline to start the second half, and he returned to the game in the fourth quarter. Atlanta won the game, and McGary won the respect of his new team.

“When I saw Kaleb in the locker room at halftime, he looked better than I thought he would,” Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said after the Eagles game. “He was saying he was going to try to come back in. Obviously, that’s a trainer and doctor decision, but the fact that he wanted to get back in there and try, that says a lot about him.”

“That snap, crackle, pop [feeling] is never a good thing,” McGary said after the game. “If I sat out the rest of the game ... that’s admitting defeat and I was letting my teammates down. I never want to let my brothers down.”

The Falcons live and die by their pass protection; if Matt Ryan has time in the pocket, he’s one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league. This season, the Falcons face four of the top six pass rush units, per PFF, this year — though they’ve already knocked out the No. 1-ranked Eagles. Much of the burden for keeping Ryan clean will fall on McGary, and he’s ready to meet that challenge.

“I have goals,” he says, “but all of them amount to just contributing. If I can help this team any way I can. If they ask me to jump, I’ll ask how high.”

Oh, and there’s just one more goal: “I don’t think it’ll ever happen again,” McGary says, “but one day I hope to score a touchdown one more time, relive the good old days when I was 50 pounds lighter and much faster.”

 

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Kaleb is already one of my favorite players. I'm more country boy than city boy and I understand how much closer to Heaven you can feel with a gun in the middle of the woods than in a gotdam cubicle shuffling papers in the Big City. Rooting for him to have a long pro-bowl/HOF career and hope he wins a SB ring with this team.

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10 minutes ago, IamFRESCO1 said:

If you see McGary in the woods fighting a bear.......

 

SAVE THE BEAR!

McGary was hunting deep in the woods once. He had a gigantic black bear dead in his sights. But he didn't pull the trigger. Fortunately for the bear, he had chosen to wear his Kaleb McGary F**K YEAH! t-shirt that day. It saved his life. B)

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1 hour ago, IamFRESCO1 said:

If you see McGary in the woods fighting a bear.......

 

SAVE THE BEAR!

What ever happened to bear woods? Hmmm....

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6 minutes ago, Jesus said:

Could you imagine what McGary would do to him? 

Lol no doubt bro! If I were bear I’d have nightmares about  just being on the same field :lol:

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1 minute ago, JD dirtybird21 said:

If you want to keep this thread open, then stick to the actual article of McGary and not the subject of former posters 

Read my edited post

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I scratched my head when we traded up to get him. I thought ford was better. But i guess its good to draft a player thats a pure rt than to draft a guard and convert him to rt.

Then I thought give him time. People are going to love him. It looks like he has the nasty streak we are looking for.

 

Man. He proved that against the vikes and when he came back in the game vs the eagles

Edited by RazorWing

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I am disappointed to read about him killing that bear......poor bear.

 He will have a hard time beating out Hageman as my favorite lineman.

Too bad Hageman is not as talented.

Boooo the bear killer.   

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2 minutes ago, duckhoa said:

I am disappointed to read about him killing that bear......poor bear.

 He will have a hard time beating out Hageman as my favorite lineman.

Too bad Hageman is not as talented.

Boooo the bear killer.   

Hive. Sop. Dap

But I don’t like the killing of a bear either.  Would have been cooler if he tackled the bear and claimed dominance

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1 hour ago, duckhoa said:

I am disappointed to read about him killing that bear......poor bear.

 He will have a hard time beating out Hageman as my favorite lineman.

Too bad Hageman is not as talented.

Boooo the bear killer.    

I grew up a poor country boy,, we had squirrel . Quail  dogs and rabbit dogs,,  and deer hunted.. but not with dogs..We ate all that we killed.. i've never went bear hunting but people eat bear. Not everybody grew up with a silver spoon in their mouth. WE didn't even have a Bath room in the house until I was 5 years only. I wouldn't take anything for my childhood.. It makes you appreciate what you have . I would collect Coke bottles from the age of 6 to 8 years old,, then I started mowing lawns for like 3 to 5$ each to start with,, Then started working at the local grocery store making 1.60 an hour.. But it taught me to work,, and so I'm glad I grew up like that.. made me who I am, I don't look down on the poor,, I was poor,, And it makes me thankful for what I have today.. And the reason why I have 6 acres and a 240,000 house paid for, God said if you'll put me first, I'll take care of you... And God has never lied in His Holy Write. Let God be true and every man a liar.  Well , I'm about to head to my son's house to watch the Ga game.. on his New 84" HD TV with surround sound!!  :tiphat:  Go Dawgs....

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“I don’t think that was the right call sir”

LMAO. I would love to see him do this in the nfl. Would probly get fined for being too nice 

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1 hour ago, Draftnut57 said:

I grew up a poor country boy,, we had squirrel . Quail  dogs and rabbit dogs,,  and deer hunted.. but not with dogs..We ate all that we killed.. i've never went bear hunting but people eat bear. Not everybody grew up with a silver spoon in their mouth. WE didn't even have a Bath room in the house until I was 5 years only. I wouldn't take anything for my childhood.. It makes you appreciate what you have . I would collect Coke bottles from the age of 6 to 8 years old,, then I started mowing lawns for like 3 to 5$ each to start with,, Then started working at the local grocery store making 1.60 an hour.. But it taught me to work,, and so I'm glad I grew up like that.. made me who I am, I don't look down on the poor,, I was poor,, And it makes me thankful for what I have today.. And the reason why I have 6 acres and a 240,000 house paid for, God said if you'll put me first, I'll take care of you... And God has never lied in His Holy Write. Let God be true and every man a liar.  Well , I'm about to head to my son's house to watch the Ga game.. on his New 84" HD TV with surround sound!!  :tiphat:  Go Dawgs....

Thanks for sharing Draftnut.  I remember digging through trash for food when I was young....parents dying early...on my own for a while... I would not trade my childhood also.

Still like Hageman more.

Still like Hageman more than the bear killer.

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10 hours ago, falconidae said:

If Caleb could bring a .338 on the field, he'd be even better.

Bro I'm in the middle of zaxbys laughing out loud at this..I could see his *** sniping pass rushers...gotcha bitchez

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14 minutes ago, RoddyWhite84 said:

Bro I'm in the middle of zaxbys laughing out loud at this..I could see his *** sniping pass rushers...gotcha bitchez

Reminds me of packing Darth Jar Jar:

 

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