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Friday, November 8, 2013
From Army to football field for McNary

By Mike Wells

INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts linebacker Josh McNary was all set to be stationed in Germany as part of his two-year active service commitment with the U.S. Army. Making a move like that would have ended any last hope of the former Army linebacker making a run at the NFL.

But for some reason, one McNary doesn’t know, his orders were canceled and he was stationed at Ft. Hood, an Army base in Killeen, Texas.

McNary, a lieutenant in the Army, heard last December that the super regional combine would be at Cowboys Stadium in April. He figured why not take a final shot at playing in the NFL.

Josh McNary
Josh McNary made the Indianapolis Colts practice squad despite not having played in a football game since 2010.
“Initially I had wrote off NFL aspirations after college because I was serving the country,” McNary said.

The Army demands that its soldiers remain in shape, but football shape is a completely different thing. McNary worked out with a personal trainer from December until April to ensure he would be ready.

“I had continued to stay in shape throughout my time in the Army,” he said. “And in addition to that, I did real workouts, the kind of workouts that benefit me. Workouts that if I got another chance at playing in the NFL, I would still be in pretty good shape.”

McNary left the combine upset at his performance. He showed he stilll "had it" but he didn't believe he did enough to get the attention necessary. But his phone started ringing nonstop when he walked into work on April 10. One of the calls came from Ryan Grigson. The Colts general manager didn’t have a member of his front office call McNary, he wanted to personally make the call and extend an offer to McNary.

“The call came on my birthday,” the 25-year-old McNary said. “A couple teams were talking to me, but they wanted me to work out for them again and then they would make a decision from there. Ryan Grigson showed a lot of familiarity with me already. Everybody else wasn’t familiar with me. Mr. Grigson pointed out a lot of things in my play and in my character that took a lot of digging to get to. He showed a lot of faith in me.”

The Colts released a statement in April where Grigson said McNary’s “production speaks for itself, but his intangibles rival any stats.” McNary’s two-year commitment to the Army ended May 21.

Grigson had plenty of background information on McNary because he scouted the linebacker when he was part of the Philadelphia Eagles front office.

McNary had 49 tackles for a loss and 28 sacks in 46 games at Army. Teams shied away from him in the draft because they knew he had to serve his time in the Army.

“Nobody was really willing to give up a spot to somebody who they wouldn’t be able to use for a couple of years, especially with the chance of being deployed and shot at,” McNary said. "You can't fault them for thinking that way."

McNary did enough in training camp to earn a spot on the Colts practice squad. Making the practice squad was a significant move for McNary when you consider he hadn’t played in a game since Army beat Southern Methodist in the Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas on Dec. 30, 2010. He knows he wouldn't be with the Colts today had his orders gone through for him to be stationed in Germany.

McNary comes from a family with a lot of military ties. His father is a retired Marine captain. His paternal grandfather served in the Korean War. His maternal grandfather served in World War II and his uncle is a sergeant in the Army. And that’s why Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11) carries a lot of weight with McNary.

“In my opinion it’s a time to memorialize all the guys that laid it on the line and sacrificed their time, energy, shed blood and some of them sacrificed their own lives for the good of this country,” he said.