John McCoy is a standout linebacker on the University of Kansas Jayhawks football team where he was expected to be a key component on the defensive line this fall. And just as his football career seemed to be taking off, the Army Reserve called on the young athlete to serve his country. This college football star is getting ready to play on another defensive line - in Iraq.
John McCoy has wanted to be a football player since he was a little boy. His mother Mary says a love for the game has always been in her son's heart and soul. "He told me when he was 3 years old that he was going to go pro. That was his dream," he says. "I used to tell him, 'Honey, that's not a job. Pick something else that you really want to do.' He said, 'Mom, I want to play football.'"
And he did. McCoy's talent and passion for the game earned him several awards and titles. He finished his sophomore season at Kansas with such an outstanding tackling record that he was ranked in the top 50 on a nationwide list of college players. "How much do I love football? I live and breathe it!"
Before receiving a full scholarship to the University of Kansas because of his football skills, McCoy decided to join the Army Reserve. He expected to use the salary from his part-time service to help pay for school. But, he says, that wasn't his only motivation. "Actually, some family history is involved. A lot of my relatives served this country in years past in previous wars," he says.
McCoy says joining the Reserves has helped him become a better person. "The Army prepares you not just for the battlefield, but it prepares you for the facts of life as well. In military, you work hard everyday to stay in shape. Your discipline is better, your focus is better your time management is better," he says.
John McCoy is spending his time now in an Army Reserve camp, getting ready for the battlefield. He says he and his fellow soldiers are prepared to get their mission done. "We're all trained. We do [physical training] in the morning. We have briefings and classes. We all know that it's going to be dangerous times over there. We're trained for the moments that might be tough. A lot of our instructors have been there [in Iraq]. So, we're having a lot of heads up information about what to expect while we're over there, about what to expect and how to deal with those situations. But, you know, you never know how you're going to react to a situation until you're put in it," he says.
In his hometown of Richwood, Ohio, Mary McCoy is already getting ready for her son's departure for Iraq. She says she has a lot of support in the small rural community. "Everybody is very proud of John. There are a lot of young men in the community that are going or are already there. We have support groups around in a town near us. I'll be going down and getting heavily involved with that. We'll be mailing packages to the troops," she says.
Yet, she says, as a mother, she can never be quite prepared for sending her son to war. "I've been thinking a lot about that because there's a lot left unsaid(sobs)-- I just want him to know that I've always been proud of him and he's in the apple of my eye. I just- I'm already looking forward to the day when they're all coming home. That will be the best day of my life," she says.
While it's hard on him to leave everything behind - family, friends, his six-month-old daughter Angie - John McCoy says all he wants now is to go to Iraq and complete his mission. When he comes back home, he hopes to start his life again, play football, graduate and spend all the time in the world with his daughter, family and friends.