BOGACZYK: McKelvey and `New' Knees Ready to Go
The Word on the Herd-Aug. 2, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- It's hot outdoors, and Evan McKelvey is like the anxious kid standing on a curb, waiting for the ice cream truck heading down the block.
Marshall opens preseason camp for the 2015 football season Friday, and McKelvey, the Herd's senior inside linebacker, has to be as anxious as any of Coach Doc Holliday's Herd to get onto the field.
"I'm really waiting for the first day of camp," McKelvey said as the Herd wrapped up summer conditioning on Thursday. "It seems like I've been out for a like a whole year, and I'm waiting to get back and get back to where I was."
McKelvey was the starting weakside linebacker in Week 5 last season when in the first half of a win at Old Dominion, he was injured again ... another ACL tear, this one to his right knee, the opposite one he tore during the 2012 season.
"When I went down, I already was saying the turf got me," said McKelvey, who had been MU's top tackler, with 97, in a 2013 season capped by a Military Bowl win over Maryland. "I've got both of my knees new now, so I feel like a new person. How I look at it is I've got two bionic knees now.
"So many things went through my head when it happened again. When it did happen, it's like `This can't happen again.' When it happened, I didn't think it was that big a deal. I was waiting to go back out the next series ... I'm fine, ready go back in after halftime, but the doctors, they wouldn't let me back in ... Torn ACL. It is what it is."
The 6-foot-2, 218-pound McKelvey played 218 snaps in four-plus games, and was lost for the rest of what developed into a 13-1, Conference USA championship season -- and what began as the linebacker's senior season.
Late in the year, Marshall applied for an added year of NCAA eligibility for McKelvey for his 2012 season, which was curbed by the left ACL tear in Game 3 vs. Ohio. C-USA granted the added year. He had played too many games in 2014 to get another season.
Now, McKelvey -- who gained his Marshall undergraduate degree in marketing and management this summer -- is anxious about his final season with a Herd defense that lost six starters, including fellow linebackers Neville Hewitt -- the 2014 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year -- and Jermaine Holmes. He said he's gotten plenty of boost from his brothers, Omar Brown, a former Herd all-conference safety, and Kory Brown, a former Kentucky linebacker.
"There wasn't any question I was coming back," McKelvey said. "Oh now, it was just how I was going to come back. Some people have an injury and they feel bad for themselves. I felt bad for a while but at the end of the day, Omar and Korey kept on me, encouraging me.
"I feel like I'm a stronger person and better player after going through it again. The first time I did it, my sophomore year, when I came off it I felt like I had a lot to prove because nobody knew about my abilities.
"So then when I came out (in 2013) and showed everybody I could play, now this time -- now that I hurt my leg again -- a lot of people are doubting me. So, as a person, I have a lot to prove, and it makes me work two times harder. I've been in the weight room more than I'm supposed to be ... I'm doing everything more than I did last year at this time."
McKelvey, of Moncks Corner, S.C., had his absence celebrated by teammates last season. Players took turns wearing McKelvey's 31 jersey number as a tribute. It was worn by defensive players until the Boca Raton Bowl, when quarterback Rakeem Cato played and won his last game in the linebacker's number.
McKelvey appreciated that gesture, but he's more than ready for the real 31 to take the field at Edwards Stadium again.
"What's different is I feel like last September, that Evan McKelvey felt like he knew it all," said McKelvey, who has 12 starts and 135 career tackles. "That guy felt like coming off that (2013) year, he had a great year so he felt like he knew it all, so he didn't have to work as hard, to go into the film room as much.
"They say, `Success is like a drug.' Some people don't know how to take it. There was a point in my life where (I thought) I'd never be out of the game. Now, I don't take success as something to get big-headed about. Now, I take it as something to keep on going.
"I say it all the time. Like (fellow Herd veteran linebacker) D.J. Hunter, like my brothers. We always go against each other, to get better. D.J. is a fast guy, and I'm coming off a torn ACL. So, I'm competing with him because that's good for me. Every time I go to the line, I know who I want to go against, and D.J. wants to compete, too.
"Right now, I can make every single run time. If I can do it, everybody else can do it, too." McKelvey has heard the offseason talk about the Herd defense, which lost New England Patriots' rookie Darryl Roberts at corner and three of four starters up front besides Hewitt and Holmes. He doesn't buy the rebuilding talk.
"We have a lot more people where football means something to them," McKelvey said. "If football means something to you, I want to be there with you. I understand we lost a lot of players, but at the end of the day, is that how you want your program to finish?
"Do you want your teammates to leave and then you have a bad season next year? That's not how it works here. I look at it as you teach the young guys. Younger guys are hard-headed; they don't listen sometimes, so you've got to yell at `em, you've got to get into their heads.
"They don't understand that Coach is going to push you to where you think it makes you want to quit. They don't understand that yet, so we've got to talk to them. I feel if we can motivate them in the weight room, in the training room, on the field, we'll be fine."