My own football career was rather bleak, but my excuse has always been I was a late bloomer which is true. I do regret sometimes not walking on at some school when I had gained some size, but my body already aches enough without it.
I was in junior high, what they call middle school now, when John Kenneth McKay Jr AKA JK McKay was playing at USC. I was smaller for my age and had some golden locks and because of JK McKay’s longer blond hair, and his playing abilities, he became one of my favorite players. He looked the part of the California dude that just came in to play some football from the beach. I was
young and impressionable and he was the kind of player that I wanted to be. I did attempt to get an interview from him, but he never returned my emails, so this is the tribute that he gets.
JK McKay’s father was the legendary USC football coach in the 1960’s and part of the 1970’s. Sadly, McKay Sr left USC after the 1975 season to take over as the first ever head coach of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and left the great sport of college football behind. At USC, the great McKay posted a very impressive 127-40-8 record and is credited with 4 national titles. Other than his coaching abilities, McKay was known for his humorous quotes.
Once, when chastised for making OJ Simpson carry the ball too much in one particular game, McKay came back with ”the ball’s not that heavy”.
He also said, “emotion is overrated in football. My wife Corky is emotional as hell, but she can’t play football worth a damn.”
Another famous quote was, “We didn’t tackle well today, but we made up for it by not blocking.” How about, “Kickers are like horse manure. They are all over the place.”
Another funny and famous quote was about recruiting his son to play football for USC. McKay said something like “I had to sleep with his mom.”
Yes, he was an amusing character, but he sure could coach.
McKay not only recruited his son, but he also signed JK’s best friend and high school quarterback, Pat Haden. Together, these two would connect many times in college football.
JK McKay and Haden arrived at USC in the class of 1971 which was also the last freshman class that was not eligible to play on the varsity football team. So, they played on a freshman team.
The 1972 version of the USC Trojans has been called by many the best college football team of all time. That is always open for debate and Nebraska, Miami and Alabama fans would easily disagree. Pat Haden was the back up quarterback to senior Mike Rae. JK started at one wide receiver position, but on the other side was Lynn Swann who might have been the greatest of all time at his position. Swann never had the huge numbers like a Jerry Rice, but he always played on predominately running teams. Swann was really athletic and graceful and had a great set of hands as well as speed. He was the total package.
At tight end, they had Charles Young who was a major receiving threat not only at USC, but after being drafted with the 6th overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft, he had an outstanding NFL career as well.
Those guys obviously made JK McKay better because they would be getting the attention from the defense and the possible double teams.
Also, the Trojan running game was superb with Anthony Davis running for 1,191 yards and 17 touchdowns. With Rod McNeil backing up Davis and the famous Sam Bam Cunningham at fullback, the Trojan running attack was more than efficient that season.
With another great offensive line and a defense which was led by 3 time All American Richard Wood, this team was outstanding.
But, our guy JK had some talent in his own right. In the 1972 season, McKay Jr caught 26 passes for 342 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The Trojans finished the regular season with an 11-0 record which started off with a very convincing 31-10 win over 4th ranked Arkansas in Little Rock, Arkansas. They beat 5 ranked teams in the season and they beat everyone convincingly except 15th ranked Stanford. They had a fight on their hands
with the Cardinal, but still won 30-21.
Their 6th win over a ranked team was in the Rose Bowl when they crushed Ohio State, 42-17.
The following season, 1973, was a disappointment with 2 losses and one of them came against a really good Ohio State team in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes got some revenge on the Trojans and came in and just rolled them, 21-42.
Pat Haden had taken over at quarterback and Anthony Davis ran for over 1,000 yards again. His backup, Rod McNeil ran for nearly 800 yards and Lynn Swann really had a breakout season with 42 receptions.
JK McKay was steady as always with 28 receptions for 434 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Lynn Swann was a 1st round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1974 NFL Draft, and went on to a Pro Football Hall of Fame career and helped win 4 Super Bowls with his circus catches.
With Swann gone to the next level, the Trojan passing game dropped off dramatically. But, Anthony Davis got more carries and responded with 1,421 yards and 13 touchdowns. The 1974 season was also the year of the famous Comeback Game when the Trojans came back from a 24-7 deficit and beat Notre Dame, 55-24. The Comeback Game
Anthony Davis would always be hated by Notre Dame fans because he was the Notre Dame Killer. In three games against the Irish, Davis scored 11 touchdowns.
JK McKay was really the lone receiving threat for the Trojans in 1974 and he responded with 34 catches for 550 yards and 8 touchdowns.
McKay left USC with 88 receptions for 1,326 yards and 18 touchdowns.
In the 1974 season, Oklahoma was clearly the best team in the country, but they were on probation and some polls awarded the Trojans the national championship.
With his eligibility used up, McKay was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 16th round. But, he decided Cleveland wasn’t where he wanted to be, so he signed with the Southern California franchise of the short lived World Football League.
The World Football League AKA the WFL wasn’t around long, and John McKay left his head job at
USC to try his hand in the NFL and the league had formed two new expansion teams in Tampa and Seattle. McKay was hired as the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach. In what they called the Veteran Allocation Draft, the Bucs picked McKay’s son, JK McKay.
JK McKay was done after three seasons and the injuries and he moved on to become a lawyer. Yea, I still admired the guy even though he was a lawyer.
I always saw myself as a wide receiver when playing football and I never talked much noise like today’s players do. But, whenever catching a pass whether in pick up games, or in practice, or in real games I usually said a pro, or college, players name. When I was much younger and I caught a deep ball, I would say ‘Bob Hayes’ for the speedy Dallas Cowboy player. When I made a leaping catch high in the air, I would say ‘Lance Alworth’ for the former San Diego Chargers receiver that had such great hands, or ‘Lance Rentzel’ another sure handed receiver.
But, sometimes I would make a catch and say the name of ‘JK McKay’ because I always thought he was cool.
In my mind, I will never forget the blond surfer looking dude from USC that caught touchdown passes thrown by his best friend, Pat Haden.