McGregor’s special on and off the field
Josh McGregor understands the expectations on him this season and after having lived some of what life has dished him, the senior quarterback feels confident he will handle them.

The expectations on McGregor, from Royal Palm Beach, Fla., are high this season – at a minimum winning another Pioneer Football League crown and this year making it to the FCS playoffs. But they pale in comparison to what McGregor has dealt with since he and his dad, James, started throwing footballs around their Parkwood Drive back yard and the street in front of the three bedroom, two bath house, when McGregor was seven.

“My dad started me off (playing football),’’ McGregor said. “I was a baseball player when I was young and wanted to do that and one day he asked me if I wanted to play football and I said ‘yeah’ but I didn’t know what I wanted to play.’’

James encouraged his son because he saw the kid had a pretty good arm. The throwing would come after dad worked his 3 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift at Waste Management and it was out to the street.

“He’d be like ‘alright I’m going to run to the mailbox and cut out and when I get to the mailbox make sure you throw it to get it out there on time’,’’ McGregor said. Being a big fan of Miami’s Dan Marino, the elder McGregor worked on Josh’s quick release.

“I knew Joshua would be tall and he was always good with the ball,’’ his father said. “And, I didn’t baby him. He has always played tough.’’

The play/work continued until the first halt in McGregor’s budding career came because his sister, Lindsay, needed a bone marrow transplant and third-grader Josh answered the call and donated.

“I took him for a ride in the car,’’ James said. “I said ‘buddy, your sister is very sick and you’re the only one who can save her.’ He was all for that. He’s gone through a lot at a very young age.’’

James recalled the doctor who did the transplant said Josh would be laid up at least three days.

“He was out throwing the football the next day,’’ James said.

Josh then spent a half year at the Ronald McDonald House in St. Petersburg, Fla., keeping Lindsay company. When she was discharged, McGregor went home and his football career resumed with dad.

“He worked my tail off until the seventh grade when he got cancer,’’ McGregor said.

The cancer eventually went into remission but came back six months later which sent James to a treatment center in Indiana and Josh to his grandparents’ house.

In time, James recovered and “taught me everything until I got to college,’’ McGregor said. Josh enrolled in smallish Belle Glades Day High School and had a career that ended with him being Most Valuable Player of his high school all star football game which included players from Class 5A and 6A schools.

He then enrolled at Coffeyville Junior College in Kansas, one of the junior college powerhouses but another bit of life reared its head. His grandfather, also named James, with whom Josh had forged a close bond, had emphysema and his condition was getting worse.

Young McGregor was slated to start at Coffeyville, but that went on hold when he got caught by a quirky rule that allowed only so many out of state players on the roster. An in-state lineman got hurt, the school brought in an out of state replacement and McGregor was redshirted. He also was getting homesick.

“I didn’t like it out there. I only knew two kids and I was far from my family and couldn’t see my grandpa,’’ McGregor said. “I didn’t want to play anymore.’’

As it turns out, the redshirting was fortunate.

Coffeyville’s coach, Bob Majeski, who recruited McGregor, took a job at Dodge City Junior College and Coffeyville wouldn’t release McGregor. He packed his bags and went home.

Eventually, Dale Dorminey, a college teammate of JU coach Kerwin Bell at the University of Florida, told Bell of McGregor and that’s how McGregor wound up with the Dolphins.

He was in a dentist’s chair getting a root canal when the JU call came in July of 2008.

“They called two days before camp,’’ McGregor said. “I was the 105th guy.’’

“I told him the only thing he could do was work hard and climb the ladder,’’ his father said.

The lowest rung on the ladder didn’t last long. The JU coaches loved what they saw when McGregor hit camp and he quickly shot up the depth chart.

He ended the 2010 season holding virtually all JU passing records and making leading several active quarterback categories for the Football Championship Series nationally. Life, however, tossed him one more curve ball when Grandpa James passed in December. McGregor has a tattoo on his left arm honoring his grandfather and the illness is one more reason McGregor has cultivated the mental toughness he says will help shoulder the expectations.

“Seeing what they (his father and grandfather) went through is a lot worse than what I go through,’’ he said. “If they can do it I definitely can do it. My grandpa’s emphysema led to some hard breathing days and just to see him fight every day until he couldn’t fight any more makes me think that if that man can do that to see his family hang out, I can do it to play football. This is a lot easier than that.’’

McGregor says the thing that scares him is that he doesn’t want his senior season to be as disappointing as 2009 when the team fell short of its goals.

“I’m a little scared of failure, but I feel like if we come out and work every day like we have been, we should be OK,’’ he said. “The season will be a success if we win the conference, make it to the playoffs and get some national attention. It’s a failure if we don’t make the playoffs.’’

Once again, back to expectations which he insists aren’t too high.

“No,’’ he said. “The reason I play sport is for the pressure for that moment. The expectations bother my family more than me. We are going to go as far as I can take us and I’m going to take us as far as I can take us.’’

-- Jim Nasella