The following feature article on Army football appeared in the New York Daily News on Oct. 14, 2010, and was written by Dick Weiss.
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Our nation's service academies have always been some of the most selective in America, competing for the best and the brightest to defend this country.
But they have often fallen short on the playing fields. So it only seems appropriate as Army football (4-2) returns to the national scene to play Rutgers (3-3) this Saturday at the Meadowlands and against Notre Dame in the Bronx in November, the Cadets have a marquee player in 6-1, 235-pound senior defensive end Josh McNary.
He not only leads Army's best team since 1996, he's bringing back memories of legends Glenn Davis, Doc Blanchard and Pete Dawkins.
McNary - a three-year starter who already holds West Point records for most sacks in a single game (4), single season (121/2) and career (18) - is the academy's first player to merit consideration for first team All-American since running back Mike Mayweather, who finished 10th in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1990.
McNary has flourished under second-year coach Rich Ellerson, who once coached Tedy Bruschi at the same position when he was an assistant at Arizona.
McNary comes from a military family. His father, George, is a retired captain in the Marines. His paternal grandfather, George, served in the Army during the Korean War. His maternal grandfather, Aaron Figgs, served in World War II. An uncle Ron is a first sergeant in the Army who has served in Iraq.
Still, McNary never thought he would wind up at West Point.
"I always had great admiration for West Point and its prestige, but I never figured I could actually attend," he said. "I never even tried until they started sending me information, and my dad encouraged me to go ahead and pursue it."
McNary played only one year of high school football at Clear Lake High School in Houston as an undersized, lightly recruited, 205-pound defensive tackle. He was all set to give up the sport and take pre-pharmaceutical courses at the University of Houston.
McNary knew he wanted to play big-time college football. Finally, after much deliberation, he decided to enroll at the United States Military Academy Prep School despite not being recruited by the Army football coaching staff.
"The coaches at West Point didn't even know that I played football in high school," McNary said. "Prior to reporting to USMAPS, I called the athletic director and inquired about the team. He put my name down on the list and I went to try out."
McNary made an immediate impression as a linebacker. He has taken off at Army, becoming an impact player and a nearly unstoppable force after being shifted to defensive end for the Black Knights.
Saturday, he hopes to lead Army, which hasn't had a winning season since 1996 - the last time the Knights went to a bowl game - over a Rutgers team that is coming if off a big Big East win over UConn.
Still, Army hammered Tulane last week, the same Tulane team that won in Piscataway two weeks ago. It's a chance for McNary and the Cadets to have a statement game in front of the big crowd at the New Meadowlands Stadium.