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Kaleb McGary’s story filled with struggle — and perseverance

Washington offensive tackle tells his story at Combine

NFL: Combine
Kaleb McGary
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Every prospect attending the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine has a story. Kaleb McGary’s is more involved, potentially tragic and in the end uplifting than most.

It involves family and personal struggle. Asked to tell it on Thursday, the Washington offensive tackle McGary willingly launched into it — but not without a warning:

“It’s basically a country song, so get ready,” McGary said.

So, here is Part 1 of the McGary story.

“We had a family farm in southern Washington, and in 2008 and 2009 recession, we lost it. We just couldn’t keep up with the payments anymore, the company kept trying to charge us more and more. We got to a point where we just couldn’t afford to live there. So, sure enough, instead of working with us they foreclosed on us. Couple weeks later, dad got involved in a work accident, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis,” McGary began. “My girlfriend broke up with me, my dog died, and then we had to move into an RV at my grandfather’s front yard because we couldn’t afford to rent an apartment. We couldn’t afford to buy a house. We didn’t have good enough credit to take out a loan, and the house my grandfather had was unlivable because him and my grandmother were hoarders during their lifetime. So, if you can imagine 60 years worth of hoarding, it was quite literally stuff from the ground to the ceiling. So for the last two years of high school, I lived in an RV with four other people.

“Eventually, they did get my grandfather’s RV that he owned cleaned out on the side of the yard that my parents moved into. So my siblings were able to stay in the other RV and there was a little more space. Fast forward a few years, last January, my parents had just managed to clean out a room in the house that they could move into and out of the RV. A couple of weeks after that in the end of January, the RV they were living in, a wire combusted and the RV actually burned to the ground and caught half the house on fire.”

As McGary tells it, that story has “sort of” a happy ending.

“So through an unreasonable amount of difficulty, we were able to clear a Go Fund Me through the NCAA, and we got some money raised to help. The unfortunate thing, though, and I didn’t realize is just how expensive home repairs is. Holy crap, you would not believe how fast $16,000 can just vanish. It did. And soon as the money ran out, labor dissipated, material. Everything just ground to a halt, really. So we’ve been kind of stuck for a little while,” McGary said. “Slowly but surely, now piece by piece, I believe they have now repaired a room in the upstairs and the half of the house that was not burned that they have moved back into now. So they are in a house, sort of. Half a house.”

What did McGary take from that experience?

“More than anything it gives you perspective that someone who hasn’t had these experiences just doesn’t or can’t have. Because, experiences is experience. You have to have it to have it. It’s something that I’ve taken from a lot of that is perspective and resilience,” McGary said. “Fortunately, nothing tragic happened. Yeah it was pretty crappy at the time and scary and all that, but no one died. Everything that can’t be replaced made it. Nothing that couldn’t be replaced was lost. So it could always be worse.”

McGary’s story also has a Part 2 that involved a personal health scare.

“So I had an arrhythmia. All that means is your heart beats kind of funny. Think of it like an electrical circuit and there’s like a wire frayed, so the circuit kind of goes in an odd pattern. It’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds, fortunately,” McGary said. “I just had a couple of procedures my freshman and sophomore year of college, and all they did was they went into an artery with a wire and burned out the short-circuit and I’ve been problem free ever since. Played all four years, even with it.”

Throughout all of that struggle, football was an oasis for McGary.

“Football has been tremendous for me. During some of the rough patches in my life, especially my junior year of high school, when I was dealing with all that stuff that happened with my family, it basically became the only place that I had to run to that I could ignore how difficult the world was around me. Football became kind of a haven for me. It became somewhere that I could just I could just be one thing, and that’s the tight end for Fife High School. The defensive end.I could just be me. I didn’t have to worry about anybody else,” McGary said. “Football has taught me more life lessons than anything else. I have had to work with an innumerable amount of different personalities, from coaches to teammates. That’s real world experience that translates into the job, and the job industry. There’s leadership roles that you have to assume as a football player, you don’t even realize it within a team, especially becoming an upperclassman when the freshman come in ... It’s just a tremendous amount that football has given me.

McGary said the oddest question he has been asked by an NFL team is one that sounded like it could have come from Giants GM Dave Gettleman. The question?

“Do you love to win or hate to lose?”

McGary’s answer was one that Gettleman would without doubt approve of:

“I had to think about that for a second. I chose hate to lose, because my mind losing is everything bad in life. Losing is not getting the job promotion, not getting the date with the pretty girl, losing the game obviously,” McGary said. “Losing just represents negativity, it represents failure. You know everybody fails, everyone loses at some point, but it’s something to be worked to avoid, something to conquer, not something to just deal with all the time. It’s something to avoid.”

Posted by Big Blue View on Thursday, February 28, 2019