When Dave and Gina McVey’s second son was born in 1994, they named him Timothy.
They, of course, had no way to know that eight months later an American traitor, a former Army soldier with a name that sounded the same but with the surname spelled differently, would carry out a deadly act of domestic terror on April 19, 1995 in Oklahoma City. Timothy McVeigh was captured that day and executed in 2001 for the deaths of 168 and injuries to hundreds more.
There was something else Dave and Gina didn’t know at the time, but now they can point to it with pride: Their son Timothy McVey is on a path to defend his country.
The Air Force junior running back/kick returner has a five-year commitment to serve his country as an officer upon graduation. His ambition is to become a pilot at a time when only 0.4 percent of Americans serve in the military during a war on international terrorism.
McVey shrugs off questions or raised eyebrows when people hear his name. I was hesitant to ask, but he quickly put me at ease. It doesn’t matter if he’s called Tim or Timothy. He’s not offended by the reference; he understands the curiosity over the irony.
“It happens a lot, especially at airports,” McVey said.
He adds he hasn’t considered using his middle name or nickname.
“I’m proud of my name,” McVey said. “I’m trying to make it a good name.”
It certainly has become a name to remember on the football field.
McVey’s latest contribution was a circus catch to score on a 65-yard reception that helped Air Force beat Navy 28-14 last week in Colorado Springs. With a defender on him, the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder reached with a one hand for the reception and then spun away for a sprint to the end zone.
“That was pretty crazy,” he said, labeling it his best catch. “I was running a fly pattern. I turned to the ball to put my hand out; it hit me the right way and stuck. I just spun around and took off for the end zone.”
The win gave the Falcons (4-0, 1-0 MWC Mountain Division) a leg up in the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy round-robin series. They can clinch it, which comes with a trip to the White House for the seniors, for the second time in three years with a win over Army on Nov. 5 at West Point.
“That’s huge,” McVey said. “At the service academies, we’re all looking to own that trophy. But right now we have to focus on Wyoming. We have to put (the CIC) on hold for a little bit.”
The Falcons return to Mountain West play Saturday at Wyoming (3-2, 1-0 MWC Mountain).
McVey fits perfectly the mold of academy football players as overachievers. He and his older brother Scott both played at national high school football power Cleveland St. Ignatius, but Scott was bigger and played at Ohio State as a 6-0, 220-pound linebacker.
“My brother was bigger than me, but I was always trying to one-up him,” McVey said. “I was never afraid of him. Size was never a factor when I played football. I never even thought about it for the most part.”
McVey took that same attitude with him to Air Force. He spent a year at the Air Force prep school before he enrolled at the academy in 2014. He didn’t see playing time as a freshman, but injuries pressed him into duty as a sophomore in an 8-5 2015 season that included a MWC Mountain Division title. McVey responded with 13 touchdowns.
“You have to earn your spot here,” he said. “I worked my way up, and when they give you an opportunity you have to make the most of it. I trusted my coaching was working and I was giving it my best. I was hoping I’d be prepared when I got my chance, and that’s exactly what happened.”
McVey finished third on the team in rushing and fourth in receiving. He ran for 441 yards and nine touchdowns and caught 10 balls for 307 yards and four TDs.
Of Air Force’s 13 touchdowns in its final three games, McVey scored nine. At New Mexico, he was the first Air Force player in history with 100 yards rushing (105) and receiving (157) in a game. His 75-yard scoring reception was the longest at Air Force since 2005.
With fullbacks Shayne Davern and D.J. Johnson healthy again, Jacobi Owens has returned to slotback. Owens (266), Johnson (256) and Davern (171) are 1-2-3 in team rushing.
They have cut into McVey’s carries and receptions but not his production. He still has 121 yards with three touchdowns on only 14 carries. Including his circus catch, he has two receptions for 68 yards and a TD. He’s also returned kicks, including a 99-yarder for a touchdown in the win over Georgia State. He leads the team in all-purpose yards with 107.8 per game.
In other words, McVey has been ready to respond when he sees the ball as a starter or a backup.
That has been his story line since he jumped at a late Air Force offer he had hoped to receive. He subsequently backed out on a verbal commitment to Buffalo, a MAC school. Oddly enough, the Buffalo area was where Timothy McVeigh was born.
Either way, the football gods, it seems, preordained the landscape be cleansed with the right Timothy McVey to remember.
Follow Tom Shanahan of Today’s U on Twitter: @shanny4055