Life Matters: Leilehua’s McGary dedicates near-record-breaking offense to deployed mom

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The controversy surrounding protests in the National Football League reached fever pitch last weekend.

With the discussion, we see how passionate our nation is in regards to both our soldiers on the field of battle and our players on the football field.

Few places hold the deep ties between the Armed Forces and football than Leilehua High School. The Mules’ backyard, Schofield Barracks, has brought in many players with parents in the Army.

That includes James McGary.

Six months ago, the junior running back moved thousands of miles away from his home state of Florida when his mother, Cherise, was stationed at Schofield Barracks.

The 300-meter hurdle track star instantly opened the eyes of offensive coordinator Andrew Manley, who saw a new position for McGary.

“His first touch, he went for 80 yards. I was like, alright, I think this guy might be our running back,” Manley said.

“Every day I used to ask him, ‘Can I go back to receiving?’ He said no,” McGary said.

But McGary picked it up like everything else he does: fast.

He put up an impressive 234 yards on his first 36 carries of the season with a pair of touchdowns, then exploded onto the scene last week against Kailua with 329 yards on just 26 carries.

With the game decided, McGary was pulled three yards short of Adrian Murrell’s school record set in 1987.

Despite the wicked workload, McGary is driven through the pain thinking about making his mom proud.

As a private first class in the Army, she deployed to the Middle East earlier this month.

“I’m playing for her. I talk to her every time before a game,” McGary said. “She says, ‘You’re going to give me a touchdown?’ and I go, ‘Yes, Mom, I got you,’ and I score a touchdown for her.

“It’s hard, but you get used to it, just kind of try not to focus on it — that she’s in good hands, and she’ll be okay.”

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