'Gotta be me'
By John Valenti
As we stood in the frigid Logan rain watching the end of an Aggie football practice, London McBride jokingly harasses his ex-teammates. He grabs a trainer and puts her in a playful headlock while heckling his buddies.
He seems to be at ease and in his element, but every once in awhile one of his many close friends trots to the sideline to ask how everything is going.
"Hey London, what's up with the League?"
His mood suddenly changes and he answers with a well-rehearsed line about how he's still waiting for a call from an NFL team and isn't too worried about it. Still, it is clear that beneath his cool demeanor and million dollar smile, he is a little frustrated.
McBride is not one to lose his cool. He is a calm and collected leader on and off the field. While others were getting psyched with a pre-game dose of Master P or Metallica, McBride would sit in a quiet place listening to gospel music. He is not a trash-talker and, after a big play, he is not the type of guy that spikes the ball and bangs his chest.
"I'm not the flashy type," he said. "I don't get super-pumped at game time. Everyone gets hyped and stuff, but I can't do that. I get out there and perform. That's the best thing I can do."
Former Aggie fullback Melvin Blue, who recently signed with the Oakland Raiders, grew up with McBride. They played football together at Banning High School where, Blue says, McBride often played the role of peacekeeper.
"We had a lot of ethnic fights in high school and he's the only one that everyone would talk to," said Blue. "He was the mediator always talking about peace. He was kinda like the Martin Luther King around there."
McBride is certainly not shy or soft-spoken. The Chi Omega sorority girls at USU voted him the "Omega Man," a year-long title bestowed on the man most involved with the house. He walks and talks with smooth fluidity and aspires to one day become a leader in his church.
He is also a talented singer who enjoys to sing at church. He's even toyed with the idea of becoming a rhythm-and-blues performer.
"I honestly don't want to be listening to gospel music with my wife on a romantic evening," he said. "So I'd write some [R&B] songs, but don't give me anything graphic 'cuz I won't sing it."
With his announced reverence, subtle confidence, and harmonic voice, it is easy to picture him as a minister... or maybe a boxing promoter.
However, a week after the final pick was made in this year's pro football draft, McBride reveals that, for a brief moment, he felt his confidence slip.
"Man, I watched all 253 picks," he said. "After that last pick was gone, I sat there and thought, 'Is this the end of my career?' and I got scared for a minute."
Other Aggies received calls after the draft from teams inviting them to sign on as free agents. But for McBride, that call still has not come.
"I thought people were going to think I was a failure," he said. "Everybody else from the team made it, and I was like, 'What did I do so wrong?'"
McBride, normally a self-motivator, turned to his faith, friends and family for support and inspiration.
"The person who stuck by me and pushed me from the heart is Melvin Blue. He told me to hold on," he said.
According to McBride, USU offensive lineman Mike "Biggie" Lindsey is another friend that helped keep him focused.
"Biggie told me not to worry about it, that this was only the beginning," he said. "It's good to know that people got my back."
Former NFL defensive tackle Michael Carter is McBride's cousin, role model and inspirational source. Carter, a key starter for three San Francisco 49er championship teams, was a low draft pick that succeeded through hard work on the field.
"He was one of the best nose tackles in the league but he would never flaunt it," said McBride. "He was just humble, but on the field you knew who he was. He had three superbowl rings and he never wore them. The only ring he wore was his wedding ring."
McBride says he isn't worried about what will happen next. He's just keeping busy and keeping his cool.
"The only things I can do is keep waiting, working out, and finish up school," he said. "It's really not over. I'll get that call one day."
He keeps in touch with his agent, Ken Sarnoff, who is still contacting NFL teams and working with Canadian Football League teams as well. McBride calls going to Canada "the worst case scenario," but says he will go wherever the best offer comes from.
"Sometimes you get frustrated and you're like, 'Dang, is my agent really working for me, or is he sitting on his butt?'" he said. "With Ken, I can hear it in his voice that he's trying. He seems like Jerry McGuire sometimes. He damn-near broke down a couple times."
Even if Sarnoff does not show him the money, McBride said he'll be happy wherever he ends up. He has learned patience in his five years at USU. He red-shirted his freshman year and didn't get in many games during John L. Smith's two-year tenure as head coach.
When Dave Arslanian took over McBride's playing time increased, but he still played a limited role in the offense. The 6'2'', 210-pound McBride is built more like a Mack truck than a receiver, and didn't fit the mold the coaches were looking for.
"Coach wanted someone to do what Steve [Smith] did," he said. "But there isn't anybody like Steve except Steve, but we can all get the job done in our own way."
Arslanian doesn't have a prediction for McBride's future career but said that London has great potential.
"My only regret is that I didn't have longer to work with him," said Arslanian.
McBride says he is grateful for the big plays he got a chance to make, like the touchdown he scored against Idaho, and the key first-down he caught at Colorado when he could not even see the ball because his helmet had slid over his eyes. But the true highlight of his career, he said, was not a great catch. It was winning the 1998 Humanitarian award at the bowl game in Boise.
"I never expected to get it," said McBride. "I never wanted an award for the things I do. I just do those things because it's in me."
Counseling young children as an Aggie Ambassador, refereeing basketball games at local elementary schools and singing at church and school functions are among the things he has done to earn the award.
"When it's all said and done, London will look back on his career and be proud of his accomplishments," said Arslanian.
McBride is not ready to look back on his career just yet. He's got a lot of looking ahead to do.
"I'm pressin' on," he said. "I just need to be myself. Being London McBride is going to carry me farther than trying to be someone else. Whether it's football, music or the church, I gotta be me."