Josh McNary Named 2011 Pat Tillman Award Winner

Josh McNary was born in Houston, Texas, on April 10, 1988. He started playing football at the age of 4 and quickly fell in love with the game.  At Clear Lake High School in Houston, McNary was an all-district selection for the defensive end position. Even though he led the team in sacks, he was not offered any scholarships because he did not play one specific position and lacked the ideal size for the college level. Despite the lack of interest from schools, McNary was not going to let it prevent him from playing the game he loved. 

McNary comes from a family rich in military tradition. His father, George, is a retired captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. His paternal grandfather served during the Korean War and his maternal grandfather served during World War II. When the time came for McNary to select a college, he decided to follow his family’s footsteps and enroll at Army (West Point).

Because McNary did not have a scholarship he started at West Point’s preparatory school and earned a spot on the football team as a walk-on. In his one-year stint at the prep school, he registered 11 sacks and quickly impressed the coaches at Army. During his sophomore year, Army’s coach, Rich Ellerson, moved McNary from linebacker to defensive end. Initially, McNary was not thrilled to learn a whole new position, but the switch provided huge dividends.

McNary became Army’s all-time leader in sacks and tackles for a loss. He is also the only player in the team’s history to record two double-digit sack seasons during their career. In addition, McNary helped lead his team to a victory in this year’s Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl against Southern Methodist University. The win capped Army’s first winning season since 1996 and was its first bowl victory since 1985.

McNary was one of five finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, which honors the most outstanding college football player who began their career as a walk-on. He was also on the preseason watch lists for the Lombardi and Nagurski awards, and was a semifinalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which is presented to the nation’s top defensive player.  

After graduation, McNary will be putting his football career on hold to follow through with his commitment to serve in the Army for the next two years. The character and leadership he has shown on and off the field demonstrate why Josh McNary was the perfect choice for the 2011 Pat Tillman Award. The East-West Shrine Game created the award in 2005 to honor the player who best demonstrates service, character, and sportsmanship. Most importantly, it symbolizes the type of award Tillman would receive if he were alive today

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be mentioned in the same breath as an individual like Pat Tillman,” said McNary. “To give up his NFL career and serve our country was such an inspiring act of selflessness. It’s the same type of selflessness that makes Shriners Hospitals for Children® a special organization.”