JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - New Jaguars linebacker Josh McNary is used to having structure in his routine.
The former undrafted free agent spent two years in the U.S. Army before joining the NFL. The 29-year-old was stationed at Fort Hood in Texas.
That experience has helped him become a strong utility special teams player during his professional football career.
“The routines and the regime nature of the military establishes a foundation for any professional because it instills in you the baseline amount of discipline that it takes to be successful at anything,” McNary said in a phone conversation with First Coast News.
“If you were to apply that sort of structure and schedule to anything, your diet or any other extracurricular things, then it will allow you to just make the most out of your time."
McNary didn't think he would end up in the NFL after his stellar career in the Army. Despite setting West Point records for sacks and tackles for loss, McNary had his sights set on active duty.
“I actually put the NFL out of my mind as an option once I got my branch and figured out where I was going to be stationed," McNary said. "Initially, I wanted to go to Europe to be stationed at one of their units out there and I knew then that would completely wipe away any chances of me [having] any NFL career afterward. I was pretty committed to just being an officer in the Army and just having that as my career.”
When he got close to the end of his two-year military obligation, McNary started to train for the NFL. He converted his body from "solider shape to professional football player shape" in 2013.
That April, McNary took part in the NFL Super Regional Combine in Dallas, just a few hours away from his base at Fort Hood.
Teams started calling following the workout and McNary signed a free agent deal with the Indianapolis Colts. His four-year stint with the Colts offered him some unique perspective on his future squad in Jacksonville.
“It was great, it allowed me to gain some familiarity with them,” McNary said. “I guess I was just able to kind of gain appreciation for any sort of progress or digression they made, because you are in such close range to them to where you can kind of feel them make improvements or when they’re giving you more competition.”
The Houston native watched the Jaguars build their roster year after year. While the wins weren't consistent, the new recruits were talented.
“I saw it as a great opportunity, I see the team as one that’s on the rise,” McNary said. “It became more and more competitive over the past couple of years and I’ve been able to witness, from the opposite side of scrimmage, when I was playing with the Colts. I like the moves that they made in certain areas and everything to me just felt like a good fit.”
McNary will now play in a military town. It's a comfortable situation for the former serviceman.
“It’s very cool just being able to see service members in their uniforms throughout the day,” McNary said.
“It’s awesome to me because it’s just so familiar for me in particular. Also, knowing that the world’s best Navy is right in your neighborhood just kind of gives you a little warm and fuzzy feeling. When a military installation is so fixed in a town like this one has been for so long, it’s going to garner a lot of support from the local area and that’s exactly the feeling I’m getting from this city. It’s just strong, patriotic and supportive for their military service members. That’s a huge plus for me coming into a new place.”
McNary will star on special teams for the Jaguars. It's where he has made the most of his NFL opportunities.
“Special teams has been my life line in the NFL,” McNary said.
“It’s where I’ve been able to make a name for myself and extend my career for the few years that I’ve been in the league. I’ve taken a lot of pride in special teams because it was the first place where I was able to make my mark once I was activated. It was my job basically. On top of all of that, it’s one of three phases of a football game that can tremendously [impact] a game."
Entering his fifth NFL season, the former Army lieutenant is looking forward to a familiar job with a new employer.
“It’s a great environment for somebody like me,” McNary said. “I see myself as a teamer. Primarily, I’m a linebacker, but in most regards I’m a special teamer. I think it’s a great fit for myself.”
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.