That’s how Killeen senior Montego Muckelvaney sums up the road to signing day.
On Feb. 7, the Killeen High gym filled as five student-athletes signed their letters of intent to play for various universities on National Signing Day.
Muckelvaney was on the list, scheduled to sign alongside his fellow Kangaroos.
With initial offers from various colleges and universities including West Texas A&M, Southern Arkansas and Midwestern State, Muckelvaney ultimately chose on committing to a Division II program.
Leading up to making his decision official on paper, he received a call from one of the coaches informing him that with only one roster position left, the coaching staff was between offering the final spot to him and another athlete.
“I was mad,” Muckelvaney said. “I didn’t have any more offers because everybody else’s rosters were already full.
“I didn’t know if I’d have anywhere else to go or if they’d give me a shot.”
Muckelvaney came to realize the indecision from the other school was a blessing in disguise because his dream of playing Division I football became a reality when the University of Louisiana Monroe called.
Head coach Matt Viator asked if he had signed at the beginning of February and when Muckelvaney told him he hadn’t committed anywhere, the school made him an offer.
“Oh, well we have a spot for you, if you’d like,” Muckelvaney recalled the conversation after the Warhawks had a late decommitment. “It was really a blessing, it worked out.”
What really drew him to signing with Louisiana Monroe on May 1 was the fact they offered him the chance to compete for a starting position as a true freshman.
“I don’t want to go somewhere where it’s easy,” he said. “I want to go somewhere and compete.”
For a guy who has worked hard to get to where he is today, it makes sense that he chose Louisiana Monroe.
The first time Muckelvaney picked up a football he was 4 years old, living in Belton at Bell Oaks Apartments.
“I remember it clear as day,” he said, walking on the track of Leo Buckley Stadium and thinking back to a family cookout where he was first introduced to the game. “My stepdad, he put a football in my hands and was like, ‘Want to learn?’
“He just started teaching me routes and I started catching,” he added. “It was like I was a natural at it.”
Growing up, he wanted to play football but due to financial reasons he was never able to play in youth leagues. The first time he played organized football, outside of backyard ball with friends, was in seventh grade.
“I wasn’t really that good because it was my first year,” he remembered. “I was so tense and nervous every game, I dropped almost everything.”
Looking around the football field, Muckelvaney remembers when he played against Manor Middle School with the game on the line.
The quarterback threw two touchdown passes to the young wide receiver.
Muckelvaney dropped both of them.
“Ever since then, I never dropped the ball,” he said, recalling the 12 touchdowns he caught in his eighth-grade year.
When he started at Killeen, he had three touchdowns before his season ended because of an injury.
Instead, Muckelvaney instead decided to turn his attention to another sport.
“Basketball was my first love,” he said.
On the court, he was selected to the all-district second team as a sophomore but felt the pressure of continuing his success for the Roos in his junior year.
“I didn’t excel like I wanted to,” he said, “and my senior year I just really let loose.”
Not stressing about the stats he put up helped as Muckelvaney averaged 20 points a game for Killeen before an injury ended his season.
“I was probably in the run for district MVP,” he said. “But I really just wanted to finish out because that was going to be my last season to play.”
He told his teammates that was his outlook going into the season and promised to do his best to get them to the playoffs.
“I went to the playoffs before, I experienced it and I wanted the other seniors to,” Muckelvaney added.
But the 6-foot-3-inch forward couldn’t stay away from football long.
In his sophomore year, after deciding he was only going to focus on basketball, Muckelvaney attended a varsity game as a fan.
“There were so many dropped passes,” he recalled. “I was like, I can help out.”
Muckelvaney went on to play his first varsity game against Copperas Cove, where he made three catches, including a touchdown.
For him, his junior year was the best. “I had about nine touchdowns for like 842 yards.”
Muckelvaney also remembers that was the year he fell in love with the game and knew he wanted to focus on football in college.
“Touchdowns, catches, the crowd,” he said, listing off his favorite moments of game day. “I really have a passion for the game. It’s something I love to do.”
Despite his success on the field and the court for the Roos, it wasn’t an easy road to signing day.
In his sophomore year, through some unfortunate circumstances, Muckelvaney found himself needing a place to live.
One of his freshman team basketball coaches, now Killeen ISD Career Center Vice-Principal Brad McMillan, stepped in to help.
“I knew him because I used to take some of the kids home sometimes after practice,” McMillan explained.
Having nowhere to go, Muckelvaney called McMillan and explained the change in his living situation.
“I let him stay at my house,” McMillan said. The next day, Muckelvaney’s mother, Wendy Muckelvaney, called McMillan asking if her son could continue to stay with him until she could get back on her feet.
“We kind of grew a bond and I tried to help him,” McMillan said of his relationship with Muckelvaney.
Wendy gives a lot of credit to McMillan for helping her son succeed and the reality of him going to school on a scholarship didn’t settle in until the day he put his signature on the line.
“I was just in tears because at that moment it clicked to me that he was actually doing it,” she said.
“Just thinking about it now makes me want to cry.”
Her son will be the first member of her immediate family to be able to go to college, and Wendy is excited to watch him play and grow in the next phase of his career.
After his initial offer fell through, McMillan helped Muckelvaney create a backup plan and helped him apply to a few junior college programs.
“At one time he talked about going to the military if he wasn’t going to play Division I,” McMillan recalled. “I told him, ‘You’re going to be all right. The coaches are reviewing your film,’ and kind of encouraged him in that way.”
Wendy never worried that her son wasn’t going to sign.
“I always knew he was going to be a star.”
While Muckelvaney worried that no schools were picking him up, his mom told him, “Your time is coming, don’t rush it.
“The place where you’re supposed to be, you’re going to be there. Just keep praying and stay humble. You’re going to make it.”
PLAYING FOR THE MAROON AND WHITE
Muckelvaney has three games from his junior year that stick out the most to him when he thinks back on those Friday nights at Leo Buckley Stadium.
“Where it all started my junior year,” he said. “I had a rough season, it was rough at the beginning.”
Having started the season 1-5, Killeen was preparing to face Shoemaker.
“That was a big game, but that was when Killeen flipped around and made it to the playoffs,” Muckelvaney recalled.
“I came out here,” he said, looking around the stadium, “and I had a goal set that we were going to win that game.
“So I came out here, the ball game was on the line and it was something like 13-12.”
He was running a fade route “along these lines right here,” he said, pointing at the 30-yard line. “This guy was holding me and I couldn’t really move and something just got into me.
“I threw him off me and caught the ball on the 1-yard line from Marcellus Johnson.”
Johnson punched it in from there for a touchdown and the Roos went on to win the game with 30 seconds left on the clock.
In the Ellison game he had three rushing plays that led to touchdowns as Killeen came back from down 19-0 to win 25-24.
“Beating Heights and going to the playoffs,” stands out as pretty special to Muckelvaney. “That was probably the best time of my junior year in district time.”
His senior season with Killeen basketball, with his teammates his senior year, stands out too.
“Jackson Taylor, that dude has been a solid role player that made a lot of chances for me to get open because his IQ is just high on the court,” Muckelvaney said of the junior center.
He continued to rattle off the various things he’s learned from his fellow Roos in their time together on the court.
From Cortez Ivie, the young guard with the “heart of a lion” who makes shots when needed, to Trayvon Todd ensuring that whoever the opponent was, they could never double-team him.
He credits his teammates on the bench who taught him to continue to look at the game from every angle.
“They always had something to say because they were seeing things from the bench and observing the game and advising me about where to cut.”
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Since football became his first love, Muckelvaney’s life now revolves around the sport.
That’s why you can catch him after school, before his shift at Panda Express in Harker Heights, practicing running routes with Johnson.
“I really admire that about him,” McMillan said of Muckelvaney working to help contribute to his family’s income. “Think about it, he’s a full-time student, playing two or three sports and trying to work.”
As Muckelvaney looked forward to heading to Louisiana today to get ready for his first season with the Warhawks, he still made sure to catch the annual Maroon and White spring football game with his friends.
Just as he had a backup plan after the first school backed away with its offer, Muckelvaney has a backup plan in case his dream career doesn’t work out.
He’s going to major in dental hygiene to be a dentist.
“I actually chipped my teeth playing basketball, diving for a ball and I was really insecure to smile. I want to help people be confident with their smile.”
At ULM he plans to leave it all on the field in order to compete for big playing minutes and make a name for himself on and off the field.
An interesting — and sometimes confusing to spell or enunciate — last name that he plans to make sure everyone knows one day.
His mom always told him that his name would take him far, and he’s aiming to take it all the way to the NFL.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Wendy said of her son’s dream. She said she will proudly wear a “Montego’s Mom” jersey, no matter the team he plays on.
Muckelvaney hopes to someday be the athlete aspiring football players watch videos of to learn from like he did watching Chad Ochocinco growing up.
“I want kids to look and be like, ‘I want to be like him,’” he said. “I want to be a role model for people.”
“Really, I don’t want to stop playing football,” he added. “I know everyone says that, but I honestly feel like this is my calling, to play football at the next level after college.
“I don’t just do it for myself, I do it for my family.”
He hopes people remember that he was a strong, hard-working, genuine person who put his faith first and always wanted the best for everyone.
“Someone you could go talk to at anytime,” he said.
For those who want to doubt him, he’ll just use it as motivation to prove them wrong.