Saturday's Keystone: LeSean McCoy

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Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (25) runs with the ball against Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus ware (94) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

•”Somewhere in the world someone is training when you are not. When you race him, he will win.”
-sign on Tom Fleming’s wall while training for the Boston Marathon

Just before this story was released, LeSean McCoy was named Fed Ex Ground Player of the Year, his second such honor in the past three years.
Alaskan Eagles ‏@milroyigglesfan 24m  

@CutonDime25 Congratulations for Fed Ex ground player of the year. Awesome to see what perseverance can do in the NFL.

The path to greatness does not always come easily. Nor does success come to those who wait. Sometimes, success comes to those who refuse to submit, whose belief is greater than the disbelief of others. Sometimes, in the rarest of occasions, sucess follows tragedy. That is the story of this Saturday’s Keystone Feature. That is the story of LeSean McCoy.

Somewhere beneath the snow and ice lies the small capital city of Pennsylvania.   To anyone not familiar with the state geography, equidistant from the cornerstone NFL cities of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles lies Harrisburg PA.   Leaning against the Susquehanna River and lying at the heart of Pennsylvania, the city is known for the nearby Amish communities in Lancaster, or the nuclear accident of nearby three mile island.   But seldom known is the fact that this city produces NFL running backs.   Two to be exact, and both with a career that included the Eagles:  Ricky Waters, and the 2013 NFL  leading rusher and NFC Offensive Player of the Year, LeSean McCoy.

On July 12, 1988,  LeSean was born to Ron and Daphne McCoy.    A happy young man, but his emotions were as quick to change direction for his mother as his football moves later in life, prompting her to give him the nickname “Shady”.    He is the younger brother of LaRon McCoy, a former wider receiver for the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.  LeSean attributes much of his success to the impact of his brother,  his biggest role model.

“Just the way he handled himself. He set the bar high for me. He playedfor the (Arizona) Cardinals (2005-06) and a couple of other teams (49ers, 2007; Texans, 2008). He was not really recruited out of highschool but he went to a Division II school and made it out.”

LeRon described his younger brothers early football training in an ESPN E:60 focus titled simply “The Real McCoy” on November 28, 2012

“LeSean would be dressed in his football outfit and I would give him the ball.  Now I would have Zeus on a chain.   Zeus was a rotweiller that LeSean and I had growing up, and he was a big dog.  I would say “all right! Start running!” and LeSean would take off.   I’d let him get about 15 yards away and then I would let the dog go. ” – LeRon McCoy.

“I’d be trying to shake him and anything. He was scaring me enough, because I was a little boy!  Zeus was a big dog, man.  Really big.  ” LeSean McCoy

LeSean begain playing organized football at age 5.  And he was as natural at it as a young boy is natural running with the family dog.  His grandmother would drive from Queen’s New York to Harrisburg to catch his games.

“My grandmother, she was the best. Whether it was a bad day or a good day, she always made things so joyful and happy. Our relationship was amazing. I talked to her about school, girlfriends, things like that.

LeRon was not the only person who had an impact on his career at an early age, as he also lived in the same city and went to the same high school as Ricky Watters. By 2003, LeSean was the starting running back at Bishop McDevitt High School. By the time he was a junior, he rushed for over 2800 yards and scored 30 touchdowns. As LeSean entered his senior year, he was becoming the number one rated high school star in the nation.  He was considering as many as 78 scholarships, and was one of the most heavily recruited players in high school. But much like his path through the defense, his football career had twists and turns, and even uncertainty of how far he could go.

On September 25, 2005, events would drop LeSean for a loss, and would test the player, and the man. In that fourth game of the high school football season against cross-town rivals Harrisburg High School, In the fourth quarter, on a play his high school coach named as “45 hip trail”

It was a play up the middle, and I cut it back to the left. As the guy rolled me over (on the tackle) I heard my ankle crack – CRACK!. Initially I grabbed my ankle. But I went Whoa! My foot was planted out but it landed in. And it just looked bad. I heard an ambulance coming onto the field and everything started flashing in front of my face. I thought it was over. There I was at the top of the world, and then at the very next moment, I lost it all.

His senior season ended on that play. But recovering from the injury was more than simply a cast and physical therapy. His rankings at the national level plummeted, and in his senior year, he simply could not get back on the field to prove his ability. He needed faith, someone to believe in him. He also needed that faith to believe in himself. He drew upon the words of his mother – “Tomorrow is never promised, so don’t take anything for granted.” But as LeSean’s faith in himself grew stronger, the faith in him from college coaches waned. Waned from all save a few close friends and family, and one college head coach who never stopped recruiting him to the University of Pittsburgh – Dave Wannstedt.

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