Kaleb McGary, the Huskies’ rock of a right tackle the past four years, was selected with the 31st pick of the first round in the NFL draft on Thursday, making him UW’s highest offensive lineman drafted since Lincoln Kennedy went in the first round in 1993.
McGary, 6-feet-7 and 320 pounds out of Fife High School, was the Morris Trophy award winner for 2018 after helping the Huskies win the Pac-12 title for the second time in three years.
McGary got the call from Atlanta’s assistant GM, Scott Pioli, at 8:40 p.m. informing him of that they were trading up to draft him. He then spoke to coach Dan Quinn and team owner Arthur Blank.
An hour later, he had 150 text messages of congratulations.
“Dude, dude … I don’t even know what to do with myself,” McGary said. “I’m ecstatic, man. I’m so happy. There are no words.”
He then celebrated at his Laurelhurst apartment with his family, his longtime girlfriend, Brianna, and his two agents, Cameron Foster and Collin Roberts, late into the night Thursday.
He started six games for UW as a redshirt freshman in 2015, and then overcame a heart arrhythmia discovered in high school to become one of the most dependable linemen the Huskies have had in recent memory.
McGary started every game at right tackle for the Huskies in 2016, 2017 and 2018, playing virtually every snap over that period.
He is the first UW offensive lineman to be drafted since Senio Kelemete went in the fifth round (to Arizona) in 2012.
The heart arrhythmia is not all McGary has overcome. In January 2018, a fire damaged about half of the McGary family’s house in Fife.
The family had already relocated once, in 2012, after losing their family farm in southwest Washington. Kaleb’s dad, Justin, during the economic recession, saw his shifts as a union longshoreman dwindle, and soon after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The family’s resolve would be tested again when Kaleb’s heart issues surfaced during his junior year at Fife High. It took several years and several minor procedures, but Kaleb reported in December 2018 that he hasn’t had any recent issues.
“It’s just tick, tick, ticking away. No complaints, man,” he said in December.
He continues to have perspective through all of these experiences.
“I’ve been really very fortunate,” he said. “The fire: Yeah, a lot of really important stuff went up in the fire, but nothing that lived or breathed did. You can always replace that other stuff. My heart: Yeah, it was a big pain, and certainly a big scare. But in the end, it turned out OK. It was a simple couple procedures, and I was right back at it. I would say, never losing sight of what’s important — very, very stubborn determination and persistence.
“And not being afraid. Not being afraid to give it what you got. I’ve only got one shot at this, so I need to give it what I have. So here I stand, man. Here I stand.”