Senior Day brings a challenge for those players being honored at the end of their college careers. How do you manage the emotions of being smacked in the face by the fact that the journey you began at 18 is over? It’s time to move on. You’re mom or dad and family members are on the field as a reminder that it’s all come to an end, but you still have to go out and play a football game.
If any of the seniors want to know how to handle the emotion, they only need to ask Jake McGee, who will be participating in his third senior day this Saturday.
A pro-style quarterback, McGee committed to the University of Virginia out of high school. He moved to tight end in preseason camp and took a redshirt during his first year on campus. As a sophomore in 2011, he played mainly special teams, appearing in all 13 of the Cavalier’s games, forcing a fumble on a kickoff.
His redshirt sophomore season is when McGee really hit his stride. McGee played in all 12 games and his five touchdown receptions tied him at No. 5 on the all-time list for touchdown catches by a tight end in school history. McGee led Virginia with 43 receptions for 493 yards the next season.
As he has shown for Florida, McGee was money on third down. 14 of those 43 receptions in 2013 were on third down and both of his touchdowns were thrown on third down. McGee earned All-ACC second team honors in his first senior season.
After graduating from Virginia, McGee began looking for another school to play at. Because he had graduated, he could play one more season as a graduate transfer under NCAA rules. He reached out to Florida and quickly found a new home in Gainesville. The Gators were coming off of a 4-8 season and badly needed someone like McGee on offense. A player who was a proven offensive threat at a position Florida hadn’t had a threat at since Jordan Reed left the year prior for the NFL.
McGee enrolled and immediately ascended up the depth chart. He quickly developed a relationship with Jeff Driskel on the field, aided by their living together in the summer when McGee enrolled. Florida’s first game was rained out, delaying McGee’s debut.
Then, against Eastern Michigan, even before a pass had been thrown his way, Trenton Brown was pushed into McGee, who was blocking. Brown came down on McGee’s leg, breaking it.
His season was done. He lay on the ground, as trainers tried to assure him everything would be ok. McGee was carted off the field, his season and possibly his career done.
The only way McGee would be be able to return to Florida is if he applied for, and was granted a special hardship waiver from the NCAA. The NCAA works on a five-year clock. When an athlete enrolls at a University they have five years to play four. This allows for a redshirt, but McGee would be entering his sixth season in 2015. The fact that he was injured would help his case, but McGee and Florida didn’t know what his fate would be, so he participated in Florida’s senior day festivities last year. McGee’s second senior day.
Word came back from the NCAA and McGee was afforded another season. He’s made the most of this opportunity — McGee joked with reporters that he would not be applying for a seventh year of eligibility under a pseudonym.
McGee is second on the Florida Gators with 34 receptions and fourth in yards (304). His four touchdowns are tied for the team lead with freshman Antonio Callaway. His four touchdowns are also second among all tight ends in the SEC.
His impact on the field is noticeable to all, but his impact off the field is just as big, if not seen by most fans. McGee is a leader in the locker room. His sense of humor has most of his teammates naming him as the funniest guy in the locker room, even if they give him a hard time about his age.
This Saturday, McGee will play in his final college home game. It’s been a long six years to get to this point but he’s earned the recognition that will come his way before the Florida Gators kick off against the Florida State Seminoles at 7:30.