During the Florida Gators‘s weekly Monday afternoon media availability, redshirt senior center Max Garcia got emotional and shed some tears while discussing redshirt senior wide receiver Michael McNeely, whose fake field goal touchdown swung the momentum in his team’s favor on Saturday against the rival Georgia Bulldogs.
McNeely, a walk-on who was expected to play at wideout in 2013 had it not been for an injury, received a scholarship from head coach Will Muschamp ahead of the 2014 season and has seen action mostly on special teams this year.
On Saturday, McNeely entered the game as a holder and turned a 39-yard field goal attempt into a 21-yard rushing touchdown, picking up the snap and running past some superior blocking into the end zone.
Garcia discussed the play – and more importantly, the player – on Monday.
“I was so happy to see McNeely score. I don’t think there’s anybody more deserving to be the hero. Just a great dude. I get emotional talking about him just because, phew, he’s a hard worker, man. But yeah, huge motivation for the team, man,” he said before choking up and wiping away a couple tears.
“Guys like him is why we’re going to be able to be successful because he cares about this program. I love him. I think if we had a whole team full of McNeely’s, man, we’d be a national championship team. Just because of the way he plays, everything he does on and off the field is championship-level.”
McNeely, who works as a bag boy at Publix in his spare time, received a hero’s embrace from fans and players (including Garcia) during his regular shift on Sunday.
— Max G (@MGarcia_76) November 2, 2014
“Walk-on or scholarship, it doesn’t matter to me. The guy’s a good football player. He earned a scholarship [this season anyway],” explained Muschamp after Saturday’s game. “He’s hard-playing, fast, quick, good athlete. He can line up and play receiver as well as some of our guys. That’s just the type of guy he is. I didn’t even blink putting Mike in there.”
He added: “Mike runs extremely well. He does. He’s a very good athlete. Mike’s one of our best special teams players. He’s a really good athlete. … Mike works a lot at Publix. … I use him as an example for some of our guys all the time. ‘You guys complain about the food, you guys complain about this, why don’t you go do what he does?’ This guy is unbelievable. He’s a great kid. He’s unbelievable.”