Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

September 18, 2013

Striving to be great

BLUEFIELD — Michael McGrue has a message for those folks who are wondering what to expect from Bluefield College in their first football home game of the season.

“I would tell them it is the new Bluefield,” said McGrue, whose Rams will face Mid-South Conference foe Kentucky Christian (1-2) on Saturday at Mitchell Stadium. “We want them to see that they can look forward to something else on a Saturday, to come out and watch a pretty good team playing and just a great group of guys just wanting to be great.

“We will be giving our all. We just want to be great, that is just basically what everyone is wanting to do.”

A junior from Birmingham, Ala., McGrue is in his first season at Bluefield, having started the first two games at cornerback for the Rams, making the transition from a high school receiver to defense last year while at  Lackawanna Community College in Scranton, Pa.

“All the time,” said McGrue, when asked if he ever misses playing offense. “I like to believe I have great routes, and I like having the ball in my hand, I just miss it, I just miss the ball in my hand.”

Still, McGrue isn’t one to demand a change. He will do anything that Bluefield College head coach Ordell Walker needs him to do. Right now that is joining Anthony Rivers as a cornerback for the Rams.

“Michael has been great, a great attitude, great leadership and he has really been intentional about trying to buy into what we are trying to do as a program,” Walker said. “He is a vocal guy. It is always encouraging when you have your vocal leaders being one of your better players and he certainly is one of our better players on defense.”

That defense has been gashed in two games to start the season, dropping a 57-28 decision at Point and a 56-13 setback at Pikeville. Still, McGrue likes what he has seen from the Bluefield program under Walker, who replaced Mike Gravier at the helm in late May.

“Coach Walker is a great coach, he pushes you and as long as you want to be pushed and you do what you have to do, it is all set out for you,” said McGrue, who has six tackles in two games for the Rams. “As a team we haven’t been doing so good, but we are going to get it there as a team...”

Bluefield is currently in its second season of football since the program was reinstated in 2012. The Rams were 0-11 a year ago, and 0-2 this season, but the process continues to turn those fortunes around.

“We are trying to turn the culture around here,” McGrue said. “That is what Coach Walker is all about here. He is trying to change us as men, he is trying to change us to the process of not just the winning aspect, but just being great.”

McGrue, who grew up as a fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide, was a talented receiver in Birmingham, recording 16 touchdowns and nearly 600 yards through the air as a senior, drawing interest from Auburn and Arkansas State.

He didn’t qualify academically, and wound up at Lackawanna, earning an associates degree in Business Studies.

“All of my uncles, even my mom was an athlete so I grew up wanting to go to college,” said McGrue, whose mother, Patricia McGrue, is a nurse in New Jersey. “It was explained to me it was going to be the way I would pay for school because it is just me and my mom and she can’t afford to just pay for me to go to school.

“I knew with the athleticism that God blessed me with that would help pay for school.”

McGrue played some receiver and returned kicks as a freshman, but was moved to defensive back last year at Lackawanna and has remained there at Bluefield.

“It was my size and I was athletic and there were injuries so they felt like I would be the next person in line and I succeeded a lot in it,” said 5-foot-11, 180-pound McGrue.

He began the process of finding another college home, and contacted former defensive coordinator Will King at Bluefield.

“I was told by coaches that it was a good school so I contacted them and Coach King contacted me back,” said McGrue, who later spoke with several members of the current coaching staff on the phone, including Walker, who convinced him to attend Bluefield. “I just seen the love that they showed and it was the school that kept calling and I liked the message from Coach Walker in the interview and what he was trying to do here.

“I loved the interview and it just sold me over. It was solely off Coach Walker’s conversation and interview.”

McGrue arrived at Bluefield sight unseen for the start of practice last month and has liked what he has seen.

“I like it, it is a nice town, I love the scenery, nice people, nice community,” he said. “Academics are great, I love the teachers, they are teaching you how to figure it out along with learning. They teach you, but you know you have to do something yourself, and I want to be challenged.”

He faced a new challenge earlier this week, having missed practice after feeling a sharp pain in his back, but watched preparations closely from the sidelines and expects to be on the field for Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff.

“You take a lot of mental reps, football is not just about all physical, it is about mental so I am just taking in coaching and listening,” McGrue said. “I hate being out, I come from a coach in high school and junior college where you are not allowed to be hurt so you had to be tough.

“I have never had a back injury and it felt really weird so it hurts to just sit out and watch. I will go to war with any of these guys or any circumstances anywhere, it just hurts to just have to sit out. I am not messing with my back, if it was anything else that I could wrap up or anything, then I would go on and practice.”

Bluefield College has struggled on defense, but don’t blame McGrue or Rivers, who already has two interceptions for the Rams.

“I like to say we are the best two corners in the conference, but we have a lot of proving to do, we haven’t shown up yet,” he said.

McGrue plans to spend the next two years in Bluefield, get his Business Management degree and then begin achieving his ‘businessman’ dreams, starting with a combination barber shop and music studio and later adding a career in real estate.

“My first plan is I want to own a barber shop, it is probably weird to you, but there are a lot of criminals that go to jail and cut hair, I want them to have a way they can come out and stay out of trouble,” McGrue said. “Money is the root of all evil so I want to invest my money into someone to make the world a better place.

“I know a lot of rappers and singers so in the back of my barber shop I want to have a studio. That is my first plan, but the real estate business is what I want to do, buy and flip houses and just give someone somewhere to stay.”

McGrue remains very close to his mother and his older sister, who lives in Birmingham with his 1-year-old niece. When he’s not hanging out with teammates, he is usually on the phone with family.

“My mom is my everything, it has been like that since day one,” said McGrue, who met his girlfriend and ‘fell in love’ at Lackawanna. “I am 21 now and she still treats me like I am 12. I love my mom, she does everything for me, she always has my back, good or bad...everything I do it comes from her, everything.

“I don’t have an older brother, but my sister was tough on me, real tough on me, I love my big sister.”

What McGrue now wants to do is help the Rams not just win football games, but to represent the name on the front of his jersey — Bluefield — the best that he can.

“To me we just want to be men, just take a step forward to manhood and just being great, anything that our name is put on, we just want to be great,” McGrue said. “Coach Walker always preaches to us, don’t do it just because it is right, do it because your name is on it, just do everything to your best ability, just give it your all, and I really love that aspect of his coaching.

“Everyone hates losing, but if you do everything else just because of the winning or losing, it is not going to sit right with you. If you just be great at what you are doing, that is going to fall into place.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

at  woodson@bdtonline.com

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