The Mountain Boys: McKee

Slowly but surely fall is arriving to North Alabama. 

The cool is seeping down into the Tennessee Valley, gently pushing away the heat that holds the state captive for so long. 

I am on the Brewer campus in the late afternoon, just after practice has ended.  Some of the players linger on the field, where they are attempting to have one of the linemen kick an extra point.  The lineman swears up and down that he can do it, that he has vast, untapped potential.  He squares up and squibs a line drive that rockets under the crossbar and buzzes a nearby assistant coach.  The coach ducks, the other players roar with laughter, and the lineman begs for another chance. 

My path eventually takes me into the field house.  I am walking through the hall when one of the Brewer players very politely corners me.  The teenager stares at me nervously. 

“I was…uh…” he says quietly. 

“I do some writing, too, and I was wondering if you had any tips you could give me.”

This is a new one for me. 

“I don’t know if I’m successful enough to be giving advice to anyone.” I say with a chuckle. 

The kid doesn’t buy it. 

Sometimes it is easy to forget that inside the helmet and pads there is a person with aspirations.  I never thought I’d meet a sportswriter underneath one of the Patriot jerseys, but here we are, chatting on the empty bleachers.

His name is Cody McKee.  He is a junior who plays on the defensive line.  Cody is tall, with dark, deep features.  He carries a look of worry, like he is ten steps ahead of everyone else and doesn’t like what he sees. 
Cody has a passion for SEC football, in particular recruiting news. He is a contributor for several online outlets, and was a credentialed member of SEC Media Days this year.  He posts regularly for the Kentucky website Nation of Blue, where his content can be found here

The sky is overcast and dreary.  A few of Cody’s teammates have started an impromptu game of two-hand touch on the field.  Their carefree laughter carries out across the empty stadium, but Cody could not seem less interested in joining them.  He wants to know how to be a better writer. 

I tell him what I would do differently if I was a 17-year old writer again.  I suggest that he devote time each day to reading.  I talk about the importance of writing continuously, even if it is bad writing.  Especially if it is bad writing.

There is a lull in the conversation.  The assorted members of the coaching staff are starting to appear on the field, carrying cans of white spray paint and pushing those two-wheeled contraptions that mete out the paint.  The lines on the field need to be repainted before the upcoming game. 

“What’s playing nose tackle like?” I ask him.

Cody runs through a list of terms and techniques, phrases that hang in the air between us like a cloud of coach-speak.  Finally I recognize one of his answers. 

“I plug the hole.”

It is an easy answer, impossibly simple for a boy with big designs in his head.  This much I do understand: Playing defensive tackle is not where I would want to be on a football field.  It is the front line, where teammates push from behind and opponents push from the front.  It is where pileups begin.

The coaches are running the players off the field now.  The pickup game ends, and Cody’s friends walk toward the parking lot, to cars and girls and teenage things.  Cody will go home tonight to blog about high school players in other states.  It is a curious arrangement to be sure.

There is one last thing: Cody, if you are reading this, this quote is for you.  I hope it will be as helpful to you as it has been to me. 

“Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him.”  –William Faulkner, 1956

Read the Mountain Boys series here:

Part one: The Mountain Boys

Part two: Crowe

Part three: Meet the Patriots

Part four: Wilson

Part Five: The Season Begins

Part Six: Coach Gullion

Part Seven: Week 2 at Hartselle

Part Eight: Week 3 at Curry

Written by
Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021. One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines. Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide. Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports. Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.