McGary's family continues to rebuild its Fife home after a fire damaged about half the home last winter.
PASADENA, Calif. — No, Kaleb McGary said, he hasn’t spent a whole lot of time reflecting on his Washington football career. Too soon for that, and too hard right now.
“It’s very emotional for me,” the Huskies’ right tackle said. “It’s unbelievable, man. It’s been a weird, crazy ride. It’s almost hard to believe that this is really it. I’m so used to, this is just what I do. For five years, this is literally what I’ve been all about. It’s a weird feeling.”
On Sunday, the No. 9 Huskies (10-3) gathered for a media-day event just outside the historic Rose Bowl stadium, two days before they’ll play No. 5 Ohio State (12-1) in The Grandaddy of Them All on Tuesday afternoon. McGary sat at a round table in his No. 58 white jersey, with veteran left tackle Trey Adams sitting to his left.
#9 HUSKIES vs. #6 OHIO ST.
Tuesday, Jan. 1 | 2 p.m. | ESPN
They have been two of the biggest reasons — literally and figuratively — the Huskies have won two of the last three Pac-12 titles and are playing in their third consecutive New Year’s Six bowl game.
McGary, a 6-foot-8, 324-pound fifth-year senior from Fife, has been a fixture at right tackle since 2015, appearing in 52 games and starting 46, earning the Morris Trophy award as the Pac-12’s top lineman this year and a reputation as one of the most colorful and quotable characters on the roster.
He’s been as sturdy and as steady as anyone during the Chris Petersen era, and McGary was only able to become all that after three procedures early in his college career helped stabilize a heart arrhythmia.
Through it all, he’s maintained a thoughtful perspective on his career, and on his future. How has he done it?
“I guess never losing sight of the things that are important,” he said. “My family will always be the first thing on the list. And then it’s been football. Family and football.
“Football is what I’m working toward in my life. … I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but even some of the hard stuff I’ve been through in my life haven’t been that bad. Because when you really look at it, I’ve been really very fortunate.”
Cassandra McGary couldn’t remember the last vacation the McGarys have had together. Probably 10 years ago, at least, she estimated.
That in mind, the McGary family is planning to make the most out of this week in Southern California. Kaleb’s parents, Cassandra and Justin, along with his younger sister and younger brother, Savannah and Jonah, made the 1,100-mile drive from Fife in the family van this weekend. They’ll take in the Rose Bowl on Tuesday. After the game they’ll take Kaleb back home with them for a family road trip.
“It should be a little fun,” Cassandra said. “We’ll pile in the van and drive along the coast, take a few days and take in the sights.”
And, perhaps, take their mind off some of the stress that remains back home. Last January, a fire damaged about half of their house in Fife, and without home insurance, they are slowly rebuilding. They still have partial electricity in just two rooms.
Through a GoFundMe page, the McGarys worked with UW’s compliance office to raise some donations, about $16,000 in all, which “definitely helped,” Kaleb said. “It helped a lot.”
But that money mostly went to crews who helped clean up the damage. Little was left to starting the major rebuild.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done, but, you know, at least we got a start,” Kaleb said.
The family had already relocated once, in 2012, after losing their family farm in southwest Washington. 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 reports that he hasn’t had any recent issues.
“It’s just tick, tick, ticking away. No complaints, man,” he said.
It’s been a tough row to hoe, as Kaleb would say. But the family has carefully been making plans for Kaleb’s professional aspirations.
Cassandra and Justin have been interviewing sports agents, and Kaleb will make the final decision on that after the Rose Bowl. He will take part in the Senior Bowl next month — a premier showcase for top NFL prospects — and, well, there’s light ahead for him.
“This has been my whole life. I’ve been working toward this — dreaming and pushing toward this my entire life,” he said. “And I’m very excited that opportunity, she’s starting to knock. Now it’s on me to take advantage and do what I can.”
He continues to have perspective through it all.
“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.”