INDIANAPOLIS – What a difference a year makes.
That phrase is routinely thrown around to describe the jump a rookie makes in the NFL, or when a player gets a fresh start with a new team.
Last year, McNary was a lieutenant in the United States Army based in Fort Hood, Texas.
Life as a fire-direction officer differs just a bit from what McNary is currently experiencing during the Colts offseason program.
McNary marvels on what has transpired in the past 12 months.
“I now get to wear shorts and a t-shirt to work,” McNary says decked out in Colts gear. “Last year at this time I was working a full-time job, pretty much sun up to sun down and then trying to get my training in for football after work.”
Ryan Grigson remembers the first time he scouted McNary.
Back in August of 2010, Grigson made the trip to West Point to see what one of the nation’s top sack artists was all about.
The Eagles and Grigson had McNary in the fourth-to-fifth round range of the 2011 NFL Draft but a military commitment took the Army linebacker off the professional radar for several years.
McNary’s name reappeared on Grigson’s radar when Colts pro scout Jon Shaw approached the general manager early in 2013.
The two thought McNary could fill the Colts need at fullback but it soon became clear that his defensive pedigree would eventually win out at training camp.
“He came here and, within a week, a guy who had never played inside linebacker before was going to be our starting nickel (linebacker) until he hurt his hamstring,” Grigson says looking back on McNary's progress.
“It was bad but it was good in a way because we were able to stash him on our practice roster. No one had a lick of tape from the preseason on him because he would have been claimed in a hurry if we would have exposed him to the cut down.”
While the McNary injury in training camp might have been a blessing from the Colts perspective, it was difficult for the 25-year old rookie.
The inside linebacker spot was new to McNary.
He had previously thrived as an edge rusher in piling up an Army school record 28.0 career sacks (in just three seasons).
Now, McNary is at the epicenter of an NFL defense, and judging by his play in late December, the 251-pound inside linebacker is performing quite well.
“There’s never a dull moment at (inside linebacker). You are basically going to be involved in every play,” McNary says of his new position.
“One minute you could be playing deep coverage, or playing middle coverage, playing outside coverage. You could be blitzing, in run support, or goal line. It’s a really different position and allows you to do a lot of things, multi-faceted, multi-dimensional.”
To some, the NFL offseason can be a bit hectic but not for a guy with the pedigree of McNary.
From Fort Hood, Texas, to training camp in Anderson and eventually contributing in multiple playoff games, McNary can’t help but flash a smile when looking back on his past year.
“It was just like constant, non-stop catching up,” McNary says of 2013.
“My peers, they already had that base level of knowledge that was way higher than mine. They were still progressing week-to-week. I was still trying to catch up to where they were. It was a struggle but it’s looking better this year.”