INDIANAPOLIS –Ryan Grigson thought so much of Josh McNary that he personally reached out on April 10 to see if the former Army linebacker had an interest in joining the Indianapolis Colts.
Stationed at Ft. Hood (Killeen, Texas) as part of his two-year military obligation, McNary had participated in a regional Combine earlier in the year with dreams of extending a football career beyond college.
McNary remembers the call came on his birthday and that Grigson was familiar with him, something that set the Colts apart from a few teams showing interest.
McNary joined the Colts in training camp and after not seeing preseason action and spending 12 weeks on the practice squad, he now is on the active 53-man roster.
"I felt relief and excitement, a feeling of accomplishment," said McNary of when he first heard the news of moving up from the practice squad. "That was followed by a ton of pressure just to perform and to live up to the expectations I have for myself.
"I expect a little bit of both, at least I'm preparing as if I'm playing special teams and defense. It will come down to the game plan, the final decision Sunday."
McNary flourished at Army with 195 tackles and two double-digit sack seasons, including school marks with 12.5 in a season and four in a game.
McNary capped off his career with a 55-yard scoring fumble return in Army's 16-14 victory over Southern Methodist in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 30, 2010, and that remains the last game in which he has played.
That duration of inactivity registers, but does not dampen emotions.
"It feels good," said McNary. "The same thing has been running through my mind, just the fact I haven't really been able to go after somebody or have somebody go after me at game speed. That just adds on to the excitement I'm feeling."
Grigson has unearthed players from various avenues while with the Colts, and he is anxious to see a "horseshoe-quality" individual debut.
"With Josh's background and make-up, it's no surprise that he has been a consummate pro from day one," said Grigson. "He has quietly kept his nose to the grindstone while patiently waiting his turn. He continues to make strides daily, and we are looking forward to seeing him perform."
Chuck Pagano says McNary will be thrown into the fray Sunday, with special teams being the main thrust.
"(He) can make a huge impact and help us," said Pagano. "We're adding a guy that's a great athlete, strong, fast, physical. (He can) match up well against this team. The major contribution's there. (Whenever) we can get him up to speed as far as defense goes, we'll do."
McNary originally was headed to Germany for his two-year hitch, but was diverted to Texas. The unexpected change in plans led to the combine in Dallas last year as his NFL dream remained alive.
While he toiled in diligence away from the spotlight, McNary feels his making an NFL active roster can provide an example for others.
"It certainly can be, and I hope a lot of people see it that way," said McNary. "Don't place any limitations on yourself. Your potential is unlimited. It's just a matter of how much work you're willing to put in it, how much you're willing to sacrifice."
Serving his country, McNary honed his football skills when he could. He stayed in as good a shape as possible while going through an officer's leadership course with an artillery background.
That training had him being a fire direction officer "shooting 155-millimeter cannons, big rounds. It was a lot of fun."
Now, his sights are trained inside the white lines. Sunday could be his proving grounds. Increasing the odds of actions means intent focus on specialty squads.
"Special teams is a lot of effort," said McNary. "There's also a lot of thinking at this level. That was something I didn't necessarily appreciate until I got up here.
"You always kind of overlook special teams as a spectator but as a player, there is a lot that goes into it. It's really involved. It deserves just as much study and preparation as any other position."