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May 8, 2012

The McCrarys see the big picture

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

After spending nearly a decade in the National Football League, Greg McCrary knows what it takes to play football on the highest level.

He knows the tolls that it takes on your body and more importantly he knows that the game can be taken away at any time and the real world will be ready and waiting. As a father he passed on much of that information to his son, Johnathon.

"I tell him the facts, the truth," the elder McCrary said. "There are so few people playing that make it to the NFL and far fewer that stick. I tell him to work hard. I tell him that there are hard workers and complainers out there. And I tell him to keep being a do'er."

Johnathon McCrary is a four-star high school quarterback from Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove, a suburb just south of Atlanta, and in a SEC-shocking move he committed to Vanderbilt in mid-February.

"I could have gone to LSU or Oregon, or anywhere," Johnathan said. "I want to use football to better my whole life and not just the next couple of years of my life.

"Where I come from people don't take advantage of their opportunities. I don't want to be part of that cycle."

After throwing for 3,345 yards and 25 touchdowns as a sophomore McCrary passed for 2,643 and 27 scores as a junior. He was rated as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com and placed as the No. 80 overall player in the country, and he has signed up to take part in the invitation-only Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge.

These are all accolades that the teenager knows have a short shelf life when it is time to take the next step to college.

"All of the attention I am getting right now is great for right now," Johnathon said. "But there are so many other things I want to do that I have to realize the work ahead of me is harder and the work that I did before, and that work only got me to this point."

The harsh reality that the younger McCrary sees in front of him was a seed planted by necessity according to his father.

"There are very few former players without major ailments," Greg McCrary said. "You don't notice it right away but then thing you got accustomed to doing that get worse, and worse.

"Football is a great game but it takes from you. There are things out there that don't cost you a thing and if you know how to go get them and use them to your advantage you are setting yourself up to succeed."

It is forward thinking that has always set the table for the elder McCrary and after playing for the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and the San Diego Chargers he was able to put a plan in place for his son.

"I have always wanted him to work hard to achieve," he said. "I have never coached him; I never wanted him to think I was going to be his safety net. He had to learn to take coaching and criticism. He needed to know that you cannot dispute authority. I wanted him to be a student of the game. I want him to pray. I want him to do the right things."

That path has led him to be both a student of the game and a student in the classroom - being able to go to Vanderbilt is evidence to that.

"I make sure to work out my brain as much as I do my body," the younger McCrary said. "Even when I am in the weight room I will call out plays. Call out protections. Call out reads.

"I love football, if I just wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer I could have gotten it with my academics but I want to play football, too."

As an exciting dual-threat quarterback, McCrary could bring a spark to the Vanderbilt offense. His talents are such that the Commodores have not seen on campus and his infectious personality could be a lightning rod to other success on the field and the recruiting trail.

"Vanderbilt just needs someone to believe in them," Johnathon said. "Nashville is looking for a reason to believe, the fans are looking for a reason to be all-in and I want to be that reason."

His fire to be the best is something that his father had noticed since he was young. It is a passion that the elder McCrary said can help boost the community around the program.

"Tough times don't last but tough people do," he said. "Johnathon has always been recognized for his play even when he was in youth ball and middle school.

"Success has no bias. It costs you nothing to run, to do push-ups, and to put the wheels in motion to better yourself. I am more proud of him now than of myself the day I was drafted. I just want to see him stay the course and continue on the path."

For Jonathon's part he wants to keep improving and he has set the bar high.

"There is part of me that wants to be better than my dad," he said. "A decade in the NFL is a long time. If I can make that happen it would be a dream come true, but if I can't I am going to get a world class education and be something that people can look up to."





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