Johnny McEntee's journey from walk-on to starter
Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08
"I saw that place, and like, the coach was nice but it was Division III," McEntee said. "I had bigger dreams."
Michael Cerullo, a program aide in the UConn football program who was a former assistant coach at Curry, said the difference between UConn and Curry football as like night and day.
"[At UConn] you have 10 full time coaches, two graduate assistants, next year there are going to be four graduate assistants and program aides and everybody else as a support system," Cerullo said. "And at Curry College you had the head coach who was a full time employee, two coordinators who were full time, and everyone else who was either a volunteer or a stipend coach."
As luck would have it, McEntee got a call from a UConn coach while he was visiting Curry asking if he wanted to visit. He made the trip down I-84, liked what he saw, and was offered a spot on the team as a walk-on.
In the summer of 2008, McEntee became a Husky. He redshirted his freshman year, but for the next three years under former head coach Randy Edsall, he toiled in obscurity taking reps with the scout team. But one cold, wintry day, McEntee's life would change forever.
A fun little video
The trick shot video begins with a student reading a football booklet in a Burton Family Football Complex meeting room, when the camera pans back and reveals McEntee throwing a football, knocking the booklet out of his hand.
"What's up? This is Johnny McEntee representing UConn football," McEntee says to the camera in the next frame. What follows is an incredible array of trick throws, including one where he throws a football into a trashcan from over 50 yards away, several where he hits live receivers while blindfolded, one where he "skeet shoots" plates in a parking lot, one where he hits the Dominos sign off the top of a moving van and numerous others where he makes baskets from all over Gampel Pavilion.
The trick shot video went viral immediately after it was uploaded to YouTube. The video was subsequently featured on numerous prominent programs and major websites, such as Yahoo! and Pardon The Interruption on ESPN.
"That was pretty crazy," McEntee said. "It was a fun video but it wasn't that cool, it's not worth 6 million views. Me and my friends were really excited seeing it go everywhere. My family back home was loving it so that was pretty fun."
McEntee said he got the idea after Caroline Doty of the women's basketball team made one, so he came up with all of the throws, got some friends together and filmed it in one day.
"Honestly, I did not think that this video would blow up anywhere near as huge as it got," said editor Kyle Campbell, a 7th-semester visual sciences major. "I predicted maybe about 50,000 views or so. Johnny told me at least 100,000-200,000."
Today, the video has more than 6.3 million views on YouTube.
"I bet him lunch at the Union that it would not get that big of a response," Campbell added. "Needless to say, I had to get him quite the lunch."
The response to the video generated a lot of attention in the locker room among his teammates, who were suddenly hearing his name all over the news.
"The locker room is a pretty close knit community I guess you could say. So we make fun of each other," Williams said. "When that came out, first everyone was real happy about it but then we gave him stuff about it for weeks."
"I wish he would've asked me to be in it, I definitely would have run the routes for him," Shoemate said. "I thought it was a phenomenal, a great little thing. It was very unique and it was very catchy and a lot of people ran with it and loved it."
After the video's release, many people jokingly suggested that McEntee should have gotten more playing time, since he could hit his receivers with his eyes closed while UConn's previous quarterbacks often struggled to complete passes.
But with former head coach Randy Edsall now at Maryland, former starting quarterback Zach Frazer graduating and no obvious starter going forward, the position was wide-open, and for the first time, McEntee had a genuine opportunity to earn the job.