By BEN JOHNSON
James McGue is a maximum-effort kind of guy for Northeastern State. But if it appears as though he has a little extra in the tank now, it’s because he’s playing with added inspiration.
“Every game I play with extra effort,” said McGue, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive lineman from Dallas. “But to play for the woman who raised me, I give it all for her.”
Who exactly is he talking about? His grandmother, Joyce McGue.
The day after the RiverHawks lost 45-31 at home to Missouri Western on Oct. 6, McGue received some grim news.
Joyce had died.
With NSU off the Saturday after facing Missouri Western, McGue went home to be with his family.
“He had a tough week because of the death in the family,” NSU head coach Kenny Evans said.
McGue, though, made the most of his return to the RiverHawks. He anchored a steady defensive line as NSU won its first game of the season last Saturday, beating Central Missouri, 24-23, at Doc Wadley Stadium.
“I talked to her on the sixth, and she said she would love to come to one of my games, but if she came we would have to win,” McGue said, rehashing his conversation with Joyce. “Her spirit is here and she was all in me the whole time I was on the field. And we got our victory.”
After NSU improved to 1-6, McGue made a passionate speech to his teammates in the locker room.
“It was pretty sentimental,” Evans said. “Sometimes we forget it’s not just about football. His talk was from the heart, and he thanked everyone for the support they’ve given him.”
McGue was instrumental in the RiverHawks’ victory over the Mules, batting down a Colter Smith pass on third down during Central Missouri’s final drive. A play later, the drive ended on another incomplete pass from Smith.
“On the deflection, one of my teammates told me that on a certain play (Smith) likes to throw over the defensive ends so get your hands up,” McGue said. “I remembered and threw my hands up, and I just hit the ball.”
McGue finished the game with two tackles, 1 1/2 tackles for loss and one critical pass break-up.
“For him to come back and get back out there,” Evans said, “it’s great that things like that happen to good kids.”