I still remember it to this day. It was a sunny afternoon back in April 2003 as I worked outside with my dad, cutting the grass and doing the landscaping as a next-door neighbor's radio blared the results of that day's NFL draft. I was 13 at the time. Like many other kids and fans on that day, I listened intently for any word on who my favorite football team, the Buffalo Bills, had taken in the first round.
Suddenly a voice came from the radio, the voice of then commissioner Paul Taglibue, as he announced that "With the 23rd pick overall in the 2003 NFL Draft the Buffalo Bills select Willis McGahee."
I couldn't believe my ears. My favorite player, the guy I had watched tear through defenses in college, a running back who less than four months before had suffered a devastating knee injury, was coming to play in my hometown.
One of my favorite memories of football back then was when, much to the annoyance of my parents, I used to run through the house, dodging coffee tables, chairs and the family dog, pretending I was Willis McGahee going for that open piece of field and scoring that touchdown. Willis McGahee was my favorite player back then, and within a week I had shelled out $65 for a jersey of a player who experts said might never play again (McGahee was injured that year in the Fiesta Bowl when a defender went low on him and hit his knee head on, snapping it backward.)
That was four years ago. Flash forward one insulting Baltimore Sun interview and four NFL seasons later to today, and I now have totally the opposite feelings for my former favorite player. On March 8, when McGahee was traded from Buffalo to the Baltimore Ravens I was sad to see him go and I wished him the best, but as some days passed, and Willis ran his mouth to the press, I became first sad, and then very angry as I'm sure many Buffalonians did. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, McGahee insulted all of us as he said our city "was like hitting a brick wall," and stated that in Buffalo you "can't go out, can't do nothing." After that he went on to unleash a full dialogue of degrading comments about our city and the people of it.
I lost all respect for McGahee the day I read those comments. He snubbed a city and a team that took a chance on him in the draft, that gave him so much, and threw all their support behind him. I used to think Willis McGahee was different. I used to think he actually cared for his team and about a town that loved their football. I was wrong.
I'm sure it doesn't matter to his overinflated head right now, but he has lost a fan today. He lost a fan of his from many a season, a fan who bought his jersey, and a young fan that used to look up to him. In the end, Willis McGahee ended up being just one more player who was more concerned with the name on his jersey rather than the team on his helmet or the town by his side.
Mike Wach is a senior at St. Francis.