ANDERSON — “Hi, everybody, I’m Josh. I’ve been away for the last two years in the Army.”
Those are the first words Josh McNary said he spoke to his Indianapolis Colts teammates after arriving late Monday night. As training camp introductions go, it must have stood out.
Of course, no other player arrived at Anderson University this summer after spending much of the past two years firing a 155-millimeter cannon for a living. McNary was an Army lieutenant stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.
His official title was fire direction officer, and he admits the job was fun. It also kept him in shape, though not perhaps the kind of shape that works in the NFL.
“I wasn’t football-ready for two years completely,” McNary said. “I was in Army shape, which is a lot of long-distance running, endurance, stuff like that. I converted over to short-twitch, quick movements early this year.”
To say McNary’s path to professional football was unconventional is a bit of an understatement.
He wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, drawing offers only from lower-division schools, and had made up his mind to attend the University of Houston and put football behind him.
His family has a strong military history — his father is a retired captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, his paternal grandfather served in the Korean War and his maternal grandfather served in World War II — so when he received his appointment to West Point, McNary decided to follow that path instead.
And it eventually led him back to the gridiron. He walked on to play for the Black Knights and left Army’s program as the career leader in sacks.
Along the way, he caught the eyes of the NFL.
National accolades came his way after his junior season, but a career in football still felt like a longshot.