The whole group suddenly started buzzing.
Brothers Cliff McCray (No. 65), Jordan McCray (64) and Justin McCray (63) all trotted onto the field together for the University of Central Florida at the start of a fourth-quarter scoring drive against Rice University, taking their places like three trucks along the offensive line.
It was the first time the three had played in a game together at UCF – or anywhere else growing up. It was the first time since 1973, when the much-higher-profile Selmons did it on defense at Oklahoma, that three brothers had lined up together in NCAA Division I football.
Up in the stands, mother Debra McCray gave her husband a hug. She was fighting back tears of joy.
“My mom is a country girl from Georgia, and family means everything to her,” Cliff said earlier this week after the three brothers had walked off the practice field together. “I’m sure it meant a lot to her. I don’t know how unique this is, but I know it meant something to our family.”
It could happen again Saturday in UCF’s biggest game of the year, against East Carolina for the lead in the Conference USA East Division.
Cliff, now a redshirt junior, has been the starting left guard at UCF the last two seasons. Jordan and Justin, true freshmen and identical twins, are the backup right guard and backup right tackle. Cliff had played previously this season with each of his brothers, but never both brothers at the same time — until last Saturday.
“We saw them going in. We knew it right away,” Debra said. “Yes, it was exciting for us. My husband thanks me all the time for giving him those boys. We’re just so proud of them. I know they have talked all their lives about playing together, but we didn’t think it ever would happen. A lot of things had to go right.”
The McCray boys are Nos. 65, 64 and 63 in the game program — all in the 300 pound range — but there was nothing sequential about the way they arrived at UCF. Cliff, 23, has been there since 2005, missing the first two years of football because of an enlarged heart that he once was told would end his athletic career after high school.
“He was such a lost soul without football,” Debra said. “He needed to be back. He has an enlarged heart, but it’s a heart that functions properly.”
After playing in 2007 for UCF, Cliff missed 2008 following the death of his roommate/teammate Ereck Plancher, who had collapsed and died alongside him when the stress of a spring conditioning workout triggered a genetic blood disorder and shut down his vital organs.
He returned in 2009 and started in 12 games at either left or right guard. He has started in six of the seven games this season while his little brothers have worked their way up the depth chart as incoming freshmen.
“By next year, we could have three starters from the McCray family,” said UCF coach George O’Leary. “That whole family has such a passion for the game. I love having them. The twins are really going to be good players.”
UCF coach George O’Leary O’Leary still has trouble telling apart Justin and Jordan, who followed big brother to UCF, even though they were recruited nationally as a package deal out of Miami Southridge High School. For them, it was an easy choice.
Their personalities are considerably different from their older brother, but they follow him around campus like lion cubs trailing their mother. While he is serious and cerebral, they are comedic and inseparable, always joking, finishing each other’s sentences, walking and talking almost in unison. When they stray, he guides them back.
“I was trying to let them decide where to go to school, but someone told me, `If you don’t influence them with your opinion, someone else will.’ So I thought why not me?” Cliff said. “It’s a responsibility, but it’s also a blessing they are here. We’ve never been closer than we are now — the age difference was tough when we were younger — and that’s from playing football here together.”
The twins, 18 years old, are 6-4 and almost 300 pounds. They’re two inches taller than Cliff, who weighs 315 pounds. All three played high school football where their father was an assistant coach, working with offensive linemen.
Cliff Sr. left high school coaching when his twins left for UCF, now making the drive from south Florida with his wife and any number of extended family members to see every home game.
“From driveway to stadium, it takes three hours and 37 minutes,” Debra said. “Each player gets 12 tickets, and we use every one of them, either my husband’s family or mine from up in Georgia. To be able to have our three boys together is just remarkable. We’re so lucky. And to have my babies there with their big brother is just a wonderful thing.”
Source: AOL Sports, Three McCray Brothers Make UCF Football A Big Family Affair, by Tim Povtak, Senior Writer, October 28, 2010