McCoy eager to make Jayhawk return

Senior defensive end back from overseas tour of duty

Even the little things, sometimes a hassle for many, are a welcome sight these days for John McCoy.

Like registering for classes. Or working out. Or unpacking freshly moved boxes.

McCoy, once a former Kansas University football player, is soon to be a current KU player once again – and those words are relieving for the senior defensive end. After serving a tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom as part of the Army Reserves, McCoy is back and ready to play football for the Jayhawks.

“I’ve just got to get back in football shape,” McCoy told the Journal-World this week. “That’s about the only thing I’m concerned with right now.”

McCoy will be one of two players re-emerging on KU’s roster in time for spring drills. Safety Rodney Harris will return after leaving the team following the ’04 season to tend to personal issues.

McCoy, of course, had military issues to attend to – an obligation that started with enlistment to help pay for college in 2000, and continued with his Lawrence-based 317th Quartermaster Battalion being called to duty in July of ’04. His stint overseas lasted just more than a year and was plagued with hot weather, safety paranoia and homesickness.

Kansas University's John McCoy (36) wraps up quarterback Jason Swanson during the 2004 spring game. McCoy, who recently returned from a tour of duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom, is looking forward to rejoining the Jayhawks.

McCoy said he preferred not to speak to the media about specifics of his time there – an effort to prevent riled emotions among both the pro- and anti-war camps. He instead wants to talk football, talk of his teammates and talk of his loved ones – who, as it turned out, became more and more cherished in his eyes while he was away.

“A letter or an e-mail was like a million bucks,” he said. “Just to hear how everything was going back home.”

The Jayhawk coaches and several players were among those who constantly updated McCoy on things in Lawrence. In addition, head coach Mark Mangino always alerted the media on the latest contacts he had with McCoy, a way to get the word out to fans who asked how the Richwood, Ohio, native was doing.

“I was real blessed,” McCoy said. “The coaching staff and the friends that I have on the team were great at keeping in touch.”

Here’s an odd fact about McCoy’s situation, though: He’s no longer familiar with a large chunk of players on KU’s roster. Having left in the summer of ’04, McCoy really knows only roughly half of the current players – the ones who suited up with him in the 2003 Tangerine Bowl, McCoy’s last game.

McCoy arrived Monday in Lawrence and is using his extra time before classes start Jan. 20 to get acquainted with the younger players and start slowly getting into football shape.

While in the desert, his weight dipped below 230 pounds, but he slowly brought it all back and currently weighs 260 on his 6-foot-3 frame – about 10 pounds more than he was listed at in 2003.

Now, as he reiterates, it’s not weight or mental readiness or anything else he’s worried about. The one concern he has is the tip-top physical condition that’s demanded from Division I football players – like he is now, once again.

“It’s one of those things,” McCoy said. “Another challenge in my life that I have to overcome. I think I will.”