Oct. 20, 2008
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By Aaron Weinberg, WWU sports information office
After being declared ineligible to play just prior to last season, Western Washington University senior wide receiver Pat McCann seriously questioned competing in football this fall.
His decision to play has paid huge dividends for the 3-4 Vikings, who are second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings.
"I really thought about saying, `you know what I'm just going to go to school and graduate - my body can't take it anymore,'" McCann said.
In seven games this year, McCann has caught 36 passes for 715 yards and eight touchdowns, leading the Vikings in all three categories. He is averaging 102.1 yards a game in pass receiving and his 19.9 yards per catch average is school-record pace.
But McCann's road to being one of Western's standout receivers wasn't an easy one.
It started in 2004 at the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, Calif., where McCann played on a team that was declared the junior college national champion.
In two years there, he caught just a handful of passes, a far cry from his senior year at Olympia High School, when he made 26 grabs, nine for touchdowns, and was a first-team all-Narrows League pick.
In 2006 McCann attended Cal State Northridge, but did not play football. While there, he helped out as an assistant coach for a high school football team, then transferred to Western in 2007.
"I just thought I could still play," said McCann.
At Western, he participated in spring practice and all of the two-a-day fall practices and was eagerly anticipating the first game when he got the devastating news. The NCAA had turned down his petition to play that season, citing transfer regulations.
For the next few days McCann seriously questioned if he wanted to play the game he had loved since his freshman year in high school. But with support from friends and family, McCann made the decision to redshirt and play the following year.
"It was definitely the people around me just saying, `Are you sure you want to do that? Are you going to be happy doing that?'" McCann said.
Unable to play in any games, McCann put in work on the practice squad.
"It was one of the hardest experiences I've been through as a person, not just as an athlete," he said.
During the off year, McCann made sure he would be ready for 2008 by studying Western head coach Robin Ross's offensive system while also attending as many meetings as he could.
"I think he took real advantage of that," Ross said. "Pat's going to be a coach some day and I think he really took to understanding what his role was and how to attack defenses."
When the first game of the 2008 season finally arrived against Western Oregon, McCann had plenty of fans in the crowd of 1,938 at Civic Stadium. Among the spectators were his parents, their friends and some of his best friends from as far back as kindergarten.
"It was one of those things where a lot of time had gone into it and a lot of work had gone into it," McCann said. "The coaches believed in me and they stuck with me. All the players on the team, they accepted me when I first got here when I was ineligible and they stuck with me.
"I [felt] incredibly blessed. It was kind of an overwhelming feeling, really."
Despite a loss in the opener, McCann began lighting up the scoreboard for the Vikings, culminating in his record-setting game against Dixie State, which earned him co-GNAC Player of the Week honors.
In that game, McCann made eight catches for 232 yards, the second-highest receiving yardage total in school history, along with a Western record-tying three touchdowns. The contest ended on a game-winning 42-yard field goal by Josh Lider as time expired.
"Some people couldn't look (when Lider attempted the kick), but I had to," McCann said. "I remember turning to the crowd and seeing everyone going crazy. I'll never forget that feeling."
Last week against North Dakota, McCann had six catches for 179 yards, his 29.83 yards per catch average setting a GNAC record.
McCann draws motivation from the people that dedicate their time and resources to help him succeed as a football player. Whether it is his family, coaches or friends, he has a large support base to assist him in achieving his goals.
"There have been a lot of people who've helped me along the way that didn't need to," McCann said. "I want to give back. Whether it's giving back by showing them that their time and money wasn't wasted or it's using what I've accomplished through football to give back to the next kid who comes along who's looking for some help."