Garrett McKay lives in a world few understand.
The football part is easy to relate to: The former two-time, all-state wide receiver from Bellarmine Prep now plays in college.
It’s just that few people understand not only where Whitworth University is, but what conference the Pirates play in — or what level they are in.
“For some people, it’s easier just not to explain,” McKay said. “The less you say, the better it is.”
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For the record, Whitworth is in Spokane and is a member of the Northwest Conference with locals Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Puget Sound.
And McKay is faring just fine, ranking second in the conference in receiving yards (510) and touchdowns (five), and fourth in receptions (31) for one of NCAA Division III’s top passing offenses.
Last week in the Pirates’ 56-32 victory over UPS, McKay had a career day, scoring on the longest touchdown reception of his career (84 yards). His 169 receiving yards were a career high, and his 10 catches tied his best single-game mark from last season (10 receptions against Pacific).
“In some ways, this is what I feel like I’ve been capable of,” McKay said. “Having a healthy offseason was huge to work on my speed and quickness.”
The last time anybody saw McKay play in a big game around here was the Class 4A state semifinals for Bellarmine Prep in 2013. The Lions lost to Camas.
The next spring, McKay committed to play for new Whitworth coach Rod Sandberg, who is a former defensive coordinator at Wheaton College in Illinois.
“One of the draws … was being able to be part of the first class to restart a legacy and set the groundwork for a championship program,” McKay said.
His first season was short-lived.
In the second game of the 2014 season at Whittier College, he suffered a season-ending knee injury on a kickoff return. He was later granted a medical redshirt year by the NCAA.
McKay said the injury forced him to re-evaluate some of his personal habits, notably nutrition and sleeping habits.
“Just stuff I took for granted in high school,” McKay said.
He returned last season to finish third on the team in receiving (53 catches, 466 yards). Yet, something just didn’t feel right.
“I rehabbed so hard, so when I came into last year, my body was still so tired,” McKay said. “I did not feel fresh, or have the same explosiveness.”
Now as one of the primary receiving options for quarterback Ian Kolste, McKay has three 100-yard games this season.
On Saturday, he returns to Pierce County to face PLU at Sparks Stadium.
“I am excited, because from youth football in third grade through high school, I’ve never played a game in Sparks Stadium,” McKay said.
“I do feel this offense has a higher ceiling than last year. We have the same players … with just a little more experience. And now we can add a few wrinkles. What we can improve on now is just our consistency.”
UPS announced its hall-of-fame class for 2016, which includes Andrea Boitano (women’s track and cross country), Kristina Goos (women’s basketball), Randy Hanson (former women’s soccer coach), Wanda Howlett (women’s track and XC) and Jack McGee (former baseball coach). The school will honor all five members on Oct. 21-22 on campus. …
For the third time this season, PLU goalkeeper Takara Mitsui was named the NWC defender of the week for women’s soccer. The Lutes have not given up a goal in the past 490 minutes of play. …
The Lutes men’s golf team won the Fall Classic title by 16 strokes over Willamette last weekend at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Oregon. … The PLU women’s crew team was picked as the preseason favorite to win the conference title in the spring.