Life can be tough for a rookie in the NFL, but imagine also starting a family at the same time, without seeing them on a regular basis. Scotty McGee can attest to the difficulty of that challenge.
McGee recalls meeting his future wife, Danya, when he was around 10 years old. Of course at the time little did he know that she would eventually be the woman he'd marry.
"I grew up with my wife," said McGee. "She was like my sister growing up. Our relationship just kind of transformed into something great over time. Then my junior year in college, that summer things started to change. We started dating. Shortly after we got engaged, and shortly after that we got married."
The excitement of being newlyweds didn't end, as McGee and his wife found out they were expecting twin boys. The good news kept coming when McGee was selected in the sixth round of this year's draft by the Jaguars. Jacksonville turned out to be the perfect team, since the Jaguars' bye week falls the same week that Danya is due.
"I'm definitely looking for her to hold off," said McGee. "I'm hoping we'll be having success on the field so coach will let me fly on home and see the birth of my babies. We already know who will be born first. Moses will be coming out first, and Micai is second."
Since McGee is working hard to earn his keep and his wife can't travel at the moment, he hasn't seen much of her or his son Marcus.
"Unlike everybody else, I have yet to have my family down here," said McGee. "I only get to see them when I fly home, and the next visit will be basically for a day. It's kind of hard-pressed, but any time I get to spend with my family is worth it."
While it's tough to be away from each other, both Danya and McGee agree that he is working toward something special. Having his wife's full support right now is important.
"We've come up with this saying: Short term sacrifice, long term gain," said McGee. "So what I'm doing right now with being away from my family, I'm working hard and building a foundation. You have to start from the ground up."
A football junkie at heart, McGee dreamed of playing in the NFL one day. Football has been on his mind for as long as he can remember.
"My mother said my father put a football in my crib when I was six months old and said that I was going to be a football player," said McGee. "It's just truly a blessing to be able to live out your dreams."
It never hurts to have someone push you when you're at a young age. For McGee, his dreams might have never been a reality if it wasn't for his little league football coach, Bruce Pearl.
"He's just always been there through the good, bad and ugly," said McGee. "Growing up, he kept me out of trouble. He's just one in a million. You don't expect someone to take a young black kid under his wing and say this is the way, don't go that way. He came and got me on the weekends and just kept me out of trouble. He had no idea I'd be where I'm at today. He's not asking for anything in return either. He's happy for me."
Over time Pearl became McGee's second family.
"I was in his wedding photos," said McGee. "They're Jewish and I'm the only black kid in the wedding. Everybody is like, who is that guy? He's just all around a great guy and I'm blessed that God brought him into my life."
Hailing from Virginia Beach, Virginia, McGee chose to play football at James Madison University. While JMU was a four-hour drive from home, McGee signed with the Dukes because they offered him a shot to play running back.
"They were the only school that had offered me to let me play running back," said McGee. "I came in as a running back, and then that spring they moved me to corner. I was pretty upset, but I prayed about it and just knew it was a part of God's plan. I just embraced the position and had some success."
McGee quickly grabbed a starting job at cornerback his redshirt freshman year, but it was his electrifying returns on kickoffs that caught the fans' attention. McGee didn't even return punts until his junior year, although it was clear he was a natural. Perhaps you've seen McGee's game-winning punt return touchdown against arch-rival Richmond, which became ESPN's play of the day. Over his four year career at JMU, McGee returned three kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns.
The importance of special teams might go unnoticed to the casual fan, but not to the Jaguars' coaches and front office.
"One thing about the return game is a lot of people don't recognize it, but it's hidden yardage," said McGee. "I think what I can bring to the table in the return game is going to help us tremendously when David [Garrard] and the guys get out there and they're driving down the field. If that's three first downs they don't have to worry about, then the scoring percentages go up."
As for the Jaguars' first preseason game, McGee is just counting down the days. He knows the Jaguars drafted him to help in the return game and nobody is working harder to get on the field. Monday through Friday, if you drive by the practice fields you can see football after football being shot in the air to simulate punts.
"Everyday I'm out catching balls, anywhere from 50 to 100 balls and it's paying off," said McGee. "I'm trying to get to that level of comfort where once the season gets here it's second nature. You really can't get a real feel for what it's going to be like in a game."
McGee realizes how lucky he is to have the chance to don a Jaguars uniform. While he may be a bit of an unknown to most NFL fans, he is hoping that changes as the season progresses with his performance.
"I'm going to be great returning the ball on punts and kicks," said McGee. "I have this mentality that I'm just going to catch the ball and be fearless. I'm excited about it and I can't thank God enough for this opportunity. I'm going to embrace it and make the most of it. That's why I'm not taking any days off. I want to be the best."