“All those kid games go out the window because you’re playing with your career and your life.”
The maturation process wasn’t always easy, though, for McGruder. He remembers hearing vicious taunts from opposing fans, who were all too eager to bring up his past.
“We were playing OSU one year, and the crowd was being nasty, saying, ‘If you want drugs, just call number 96,’” McGruder recalled. “But at the end of the day, the people saying that don’t know you. It’s up to you to change people’s minds.
“You’ve gotta change yourself first, because you can’t change anything until you change yourself.”
McGruder’s reputation changed forever in the summer of 2003, when he and teammate Mark Clayton witnessed an accident on Interstate 35, broke a window and pulled a family of five out of a burning van.
McGruder and Clayton were named as the Big 12’s Sportsmen of the Year for their heroics.
Green-Beckham will likely sit out the 2014 season under NCAA rules, unless his NCAA appeal for immediate eligibility is successful.
Either way, he’s clearly got a lot of growing up to do. But as McGruder — who played professionally for a few years and is now considering returning to OU for a master’s degree — knows, just about anything is possible.
“I would tell him to take it one day at a time,” McGruder said. “Stay positive. Really, really soak in the fact that he has a second chance, and truly, truly don’t let anything negative from the outside come into his life.
“Anytime you get a chance like this, and you’re that type of athlete, and you’re in that type of environment, you have to take advantage of it. That’s what OU is expecting out of him. That’s what Coach Stoops evidently sees in him.”