, Muskogee, OK


April 28, 2013

Raiders’ homework gives Rougher chance to score big

I’ll admit it.

When Stacy McGee had his last brush with the law – the DUI arrest that got him knocked out of Oklahoma’s defensive line rotation for the Cotton Bowl game, I thought his draftability went with it.

But the Oakland Raiders, after doing some market research of their own, thought otherwise, and the former Rougher turned Sooner has a chance now to turn his career in the right direction.

In spite of some of his off-field choices – one involved marijuana and in all, he was suspended three times as a Sooner which significantly hampered his impact as a player there – McGee’s talent and size never went away, and that tends to overshadow behavior issues.

Sort of.

The NFL invests millions in their talent and it doesn’t like to blow draft picks. The Raiders took a good hard look at McGee and general manager Reggie McKenzie had this to say about the 6-foot-3, 308-pounder:

“The people that surround him – his support group, and talking to him himself. You just came away with, ‘I wanted to see what this guy has and give him a chance.’ He knows it, but I have no problems bringing him into that locker room. He’s a solid guy that made some mistakes in college and that happens sometimes. But after the thorough research we had with him, we felt good about it.”

In defense of McGee, there’s plenty of histories out there in the league far more checkered than his in Norman. The NFL is a cross-section of society showered with wealth. The money hasn’t always been there, but the behaviors were part of a lot of their pre-pro cultures.

McGee doesn’t have the much-documented weirdness of Manti Te’o’s dating life.  He isn’t Armonty Bryant, an East Central standout who was arrested after twice selling marijuana to an undercover officer -- on school grounds at that.

He isn’t Rolando McClain, who just days earlier became a former Raider (now a Baltimore Raven) after a series of arrests ranging from assault to resisting arrest.

The Ravens, you might now, were where Ray Lewis was a part of until retiring with a Lombardi in tow in January. Lewis gained notoriety for his involvement in a January 2000 fight that resulted in an indictment on murder and aggravated-assault charges. In a plea agreement he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for testifying against two other defendants.

McGee certainly isn’t the early Ray Lewis.  He could be the latter, but there’s first this make-the-team thing and a few all-pro teams to make first.

There was a time this seemed very possible. McGee was the area’s best defensive player on the All-Phoenix team of 2007.   He would win the Male Athlete of the Year award later that year, adding to his accomplishments a state wrestling championship.  I recall his coaches, David Heath among them, saying there was a time early in McGee’s high school tenure when the light came on regarding the work it takes to be a special athlete.  Once it did, the fruits of that labor became clear.

The Raiders won’t make McGee available to the media until he’s well into the upcoming mini-camp. He’s kept a low profile since his last suspension from OU, avoiding scribes like me, and that’s OK. Right now, his focus should be on what I’ve been told it has been, bearing down, straightening out and wising up.

At this point, a victory for McGee is a victory for his hometown, who needs some heroes. We had one a while back in Archie Bradley until he began to call Broken Arrow home before he got out of school, building his baseball career in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. Cato June went to school in Muskogee for a while, but didn’t graduate from there, and won a Super Bowl with Indianapolis. Les Waldron (Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins) was born here but didn’t stay until school.

McGee was a Rougher who stayed a Rougher.

He’s family if you will.

And we want family to succeed.

Most of all, McGee can succeed with personal standards kids can look up too, and heaven knows, we have a lot of kids who need a positive example to follow.

So go for it, big guy. You’ve got another chance.

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