- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

STILLWATER, OKLA. (AP) - As he lay in bed after playing in the Bedlam rivalry game for the first time, Andrew McGee just couldn’t sleep.

The pain kept getting worse and around dawn, he made a call to Oklahoma State’s trainers and told them how badly his neck was bothering him.

When the diagnosis came back that McGee had two cracked vertebrae, everyone thought his football career was over. But as the weeks and months passed, McGee kept healing to the point that he decided to try a comeback.

A year later, he’ll not only be playing but starting when the 10th-ranked Cowboys (10-1, 6-1 Big 12) host No. 14 Oklahoma (9-2, 5-2) on Saturday with a trip to the Big 12 championship on the line.

“I’m kind of in awe when I think about the fact that it could have been all over for me at this time last year,” McGee said. “I think of the amount of things that God has done in me and through this team just in the span of a year. It’s been amazing.”

McGee was knocked out when he tried to tackle Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles on a punt return and ended up being hit by his knee. Looking back, he believes the lingering symptoms from a concussion prevented him from feeling the pain from his broken neck until daytime turned into a sleepless night.

“Initially, the doctors and all the coaches thought it was over when they told me it was broken,” McGee said. “I was just blessed and happy that I wasn’t in a wheelchair at the time.”

The injury cost the Magee, Miss., native a chance to start in place of the suspended Perrish Cox in Oklahoma State’s Cotton Bowl loss against Mississippi, but no one was concerned about that at the time.

“We thought he was done. We went all the way into Christmas thinking that his career has ended,” defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “We went out recruiting midterm high school guys, looking for a junior college corner to take his place and he tricked us. He got well and came back.”

By late spring, McGee was ready to give football a try again. Coach Mike Gundy and Young made sure that his parents approved of his comeback attempt and that he wouldn’t be putting himself at risk.

To McGee, it was a simple decision.

“It wasn’t tough at all,” he said. “I knew that if God gave me an opportunity, I was going to play football. I love it.”

Through his senior season, he’s had to play with a variety of injuries. He’s had his knee drained several times, dealt with a stinger and played with a cast on a broken wrist. He still has a team-high five interceptions this season and is one of only 20 players in the nation with that many.

“There’s just something special about guys like that,” said Gundy, who believes McGee would have two more picks if not for the cast. “They’re willing to do it. And when you have enough of those guys, your team ends up winning some football games.”

McGee’s unexpected return provided a boost of experience to a secondary that lost three starters from last season, including Cox and fellow starter Terrance Anderson.

“To have him come back and go through almost a life-changing experience helps us and kind of shaped and molded our team to continue to believe,” safety Markelle Martin said. “You never know when it’s going to be your last game.”

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

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