Colin McNamara led the Fairview Warriors football team onto the field just like he had the first four weeks of the 2013 season.
The junior quarterback helped his team compile a perfect 4-0 record in that time and, for a team that’s best finish since 2004 had been 5-5, that was cause for celebration and excitement among the team, fans and community.
Thanks in part to a strong running game, Fairview led conference rival Brookside 14-10 in week five with the first half drawing to a close. Right before both teams went to their locker rooms, however, McNamara took a wrong step on the field and tore his right ACL. His junior season and potential playoff run was over.
The Warriors went on to win that game 45-10 to improve to 5-0. In its final five games, Fairview went 3-2 and just missed the playoffs after a 16-14 heartbreaker at the hands of Lutheran West in the last game of the season.
Even as mentally and physically hurt as he was, McNamara knew he still had a job to do on that team.
“We were clicking. We were on a roll. Everybody (had been) working hard since the season before, throughout the winter and leading up to camp,” McNamara said. “I was making sure I had all the guys know that they could put their faith in me to lead them to a great season. Knowing we put so much work in, (the injury) really took a toll. It was a rough time at that point.
“I knew that even though I couldn’t be on the field, I still had to be their leader that was there for them,” he added. “Making sure … that they were taking the initiative to make sure that they were going into each and every game like it was a playoff game. We had everybody coming for our heads and I had to be that guy on the sidelines making sure everybody was on top of everything.”
Then-Fairview coach Tom Narducci said that McNamara wasted no time adjusting his mindset, focusing on the team and realizing that he still had another year ahead of him.
“He continued to look forward to helping the team,” Narducci said. “He was at every practice on crutches. He was on the sideline at every game. I know when we lost that last game of the year, … Colin came over to me and he said, ‘Coach, next year starts right now.’”
The 2013 season was the closest McNamara got the playoffs with the Warriors. Fairview went just 3-7 in his senior year.
TOUGH TIMES AT TIFFIN
After graduation, McNamara enrolled at Tiffin University and started studying business while continuing to play football.
About two years into his time there, he realized he didn’t see himself making a career in business. He wanted to follow in his sister, Brittney’s, footsteps and go into education.
“When I wasn’t at school, I was around her with where she was at out in Fairview,” McNamara said. “Being around kids, having younger brothers and younger cousins, I’ve always been around younger kids. I felt like I could make a positive influence on them. Being that influence that some people might not have.”
After Brittney, 24, Colin, 22, is the eldest brother. His brother Tommy, 19, is a quarterback at Fairview. Behind him are Sean, 16, and Ryan, 10.
Shortly after deciding he wanted to change his major, he encountered an obstacle. An adviser at Tiffin told him that in the coming months, Tiffin would no longer offer education as a major.
Though shocked, he wasted no time in finding a solution that would give him the major he wanted and also a chance to keep playing football.
“Just going through those two and a half years (at Tiffin), fighting and trying to get some time on the field, and then next thing I know, I get hit with a bomb saying that the school is dropping my major,” McNamara said. “At that point, I still really wanted to play, but as I matured through college, I really knew that my education was one of the top things I need to be worried about.”
McNamara said that while searching for schools he “stumbled” upon Hiram. His initial list of schools where he could both study and play football included Baldwin Wallace, John Carroll and Mount Union universities.
It wasn’t until his dad, Kevin, brought up the possibility of playing for Hiram that Colin considered that as an option.
“I’m thinking, man, he’s just a kid. He’s got it wrong,” Kevin McNamara said about his son telling him Tiffin was dropping education. “Sure enough, … I called his head coach and I said, ‘We’ve got a bit of a situation here.’”
After the coach confirmed that the major was being dropped, Colin and his dad started touring colleges almost immediately. At the first meeting with Hiram’s coach, Colin knew that was the place for him. As he put it, the school “felt like home.”
“Coach (Henry) Stanford, from the jump I could really tell that he was passionate about football and growing these young men that he had around him at the time to become what he calls ‘Men of Hiram,’” Colin McNamara said. “Being leaders on and off the field, showing gratitude towards professors and all those things.
“I’ve really enjoyed it (at Hiram),” he added. “Being a smaller school, that’s really what I like – what I’m made for. Coming here, I’ve made great friendships already … that I know I’m going to have for a lifetime. The sky’s the limit with the guys I have around me.”
In week four of his 2017 junior-redshirt season against Allegheny, Colin McNamara found himself in an all-too-familiar scenario.
He was coming back to Hiram’s home field after separating his shoulder in the first game of the season against Wabash College. The Terriers were driving down the field in the third quarter with McNamara behind center.
McNamara took off, planted his leg awkwardly and tore his left ACL. Once again on a non-contact play.
Having this second tear come after he’d rehabbed and recovered from the separated shoulder made the emotional toll on McNamara even worse.
“I remember walking off the field and I was really just frustrated with what was going on,” he said. “I really tried to make my comeback and do everything I could to get back on the field because I felt like I could really make a good impact on this team if I played.
“I always had to take those late-night phone calls from my dad and just talk it out,” he added. “I didn’t know what was going on in my head just because of all the things I was going through. My dad was there for me making sure I was OK and putting good thoughts in my head.”
Through his time coaching Fairview and getting to know the McNamaras, Narducci said that kind of family support has been instrumental in helping Colin
“It’s his family lineage,” Narducci said. “His dad is a tough cookie. They enjoy sports and they enjoy watching their kids play and I think Colin was raised in that atmosphere. I think it’s just the mindset that the family has.
“His dad’s a good ‘player’s dad,’” he added. “I think he pushes his kids just far enough to where it’s the kids doing all the work. Kevin is very supportive of everything they do. ‘You’re injured? We’ll heal up and give it a go next year.’”
Colin McNamara hopes that his tenacity and leadership rub off on his brothers and that they can continue to look to him as a source of motivation. Beyond that, he plans to pursue a coaching career, hopefully following in Narducci’s footsteps with the Warriors someday.
“He was definitely that role model I looked for on the football field,” McNamara said. “Being around him all the time that I was in football and getting into that relationship was almost like it was supposed to happen. What he’s taught me throughout the years that I was there … it really helped me out a lot.”
McNamara has no fear of reinjuring himself this season. The way he sees it, if you think about it too much, it’s bound to happen. Instead, he’s taking the same approach at Hiram as he did as a junior at Fairview: There’s another season to play and it starts now.
“This year is all about getting out there with my teammates,” McNamara said. “I don’t think there’s any greater feeling than being out on the field and knowing you have the ball in your hands and you can make any decision that you want.”
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