STILLWATER — Andrew McGee had been on campus less than a week when he got a call from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Word was, the Oklahoma State defensive back wanted to do community work and church ministry. John Talley, the local FCA director, had a request from a church wanting a speaker to come and talk to its youth group.
The subject — sex education.
Was it a daunting assignment? Sure.
But that didn't discourage McGee.
"I was kind of thrown into the fire," he said, laughing. "But it grew me. It helped me a lot."
Some might contend that McGee has been the helpful one.
Since that first appearance a year and a half ago, he has spoken to more than 25,000 people at churches, schools and assemblies. He has helped with home-improvement projects for the underprivileged and team-building activities at various schools. He has volunteered at community food pantries and juvenile detention centers.
McGee is a rising star on the football field. He was the No. 3 cornerback last season, but with 32 tackles a year ago, he ranks second among returners. He is expected to be one of the Cowboys' starting cornerbacks.
Off the field, his star has already been hung.
McGee was nominated earlier this summer for the American Football Coaches Association's Good Works Team, and Talley intends to nominate him in coming months for FCA's Bobby Bowden Award, given last year to Texas quarterback Colt McCoy.
Awards, though, aren't the reason McGee does what he does.
"Every day that I wake up, I have to reach out to someone," he said. "God called me to do it."
Church attendance: From a chore to a hobby
Andrew McGee was like every other kid on Sunday mornings.
"Aww," he'd tell his parents, "I don't want to go to church."
But that's always where he and his four siblings ended up. Larry and Doris McGee made sure of it.
They were stalwarts at Church Alive in Magee, Miss., a small rural town less than an hour south of Jackson. Any time the church's doors were open, their family would be there. They prayed. They sang. They studied.
The older that Andrew McGee got, the more he wanted to be there.
"It went from a chore to a hobby," McGee said, "something I like to do."
He got involved more with his youth group, becoming a leader. He taught himself how to play the guitar, allowing him to lead worship.
His hobby soon became his passion.
McGee realized somewhere between his sophomore and junior years of high school that he'd been called to ministry. It was his life's work. It was his heart's desire.
A budding football career did nothing to change that. Even as he became a prep standout, went to junior college at nearby Copiah Lincoln and dreamed of moving on to a major-college program, he wanted to find a place where he felt led to both tackle and teach.
"Just like Moses or anybody that got called, (God) assigned them to a certain area or a certain people," McGee said. "Wherever he takes me and leads me and guides me, that's my platform."
That's why he told Cowboy coaches during his recruiting visit that he wanted to do work in the community. He wanted to minister. He wanted to help.
Word got passed along to Talley, who enlisted McGee's help as soon as he arrived on campus.
He has been all over the state since then, from Altus to Idabel to Hooker. He has done dozens of projects for those who needed help, from roofing a house to tearing down an old barn to putting up six miles of barbed-wire fence.
It is speaking to youngsters, though, that he enjoys most.
Last spring, McGee went with Talley to the Wichita Mountains to go rapelling with a group of youth. Standing on top of that cliff was scary for them.
McGee could relate.
Only a week before, he had been wearing a neck brace. He'd worn it for more than four months after breaking his neck in the Bedlam game.
He told the kids all about it, how he'd worried about his future, how he'd wondered if he'd ever play again. He admitted that he was scared. He confessed that he was afraid, even though he knew that God had commanded his believers not to fear.
"He's not afraid to say, 'This is where I messed up,'" Talley said. "Kids need to hear that. They think sometimes someone of his stature doesn't mess up.
"Being transparent is huge."
Every kid made it down the mountain that day.
So did McGee.
"That was something that I don't think I'll ever forget," McGee said.
'A young man you hope your son grows up to be'
Andrew McGee knows that he has raised the level of difficulty on being a college student, much less a college athlete.
His already busy schedule is made all the more hectic with his speaking engagements and his community service. And while he admits to some of the vices of the average twentysomething — he still finds time for video games — he realized long ago that he can't do all of the things that guys his age do.
"You want to have fun," he said. "You want to have fun with your guys, go out and hang out with your teammates, talk about what they're talking about, laughing and playing around in the locker room."
It can be difficult.
"I can't tell you right now that I'm perfect or that I do everything right," McGee said.
But he's mindful of the standard that he has set and the calling that he has heard.
McGee has chosen this path less taken.
"Andrew is the kind of young man you hope your son grows up to be," said John Bugg, pastor at University Heights Baptist Church where McGee interned the past two summers.
People will often ask McGee how he does what he does, all the volunteering, all the ministering.
He insists that it isn't a burden or a chore.
"It's just as fulfilling for me as it is for them," he will say, "because that's where my heart is. It blesses me every time I do it."
Jenni Carlson is a columnist for The Oklahoman. Contact her at 475-4125 and firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit her page at www.newsok.com/jennicarlson
Words of Wisdom
Some of Oklahoma State cornerback Andrew McGee's favorite quotations from his Facebook page:
â€œMake a living by what you get. Make a life by what you give.â€
â€œNo weapon formed against me shall prosper.â€
â€œFaith is the substance for my addiction.â€
â€œTo live this way is to be radical. To be radical is to be countercultural. To be countercultural is to be like Jesus. To be like Jesus is my goal!â€
â€œIf they're breathing, they need to hear about Jesus.â€