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Bianchi: McGahee role model on and off the field

Bad news makes the news. Good news rarely does.

For the same reason local TV stations don’t send a correspondent to DIA because every plane landed safely there in a given day or SportsCenter doesn’t have Rachel Nichols reporting that no pro athlete got a DUI that night, good news doesn’t often make the airwaves, unless things are slow or papers or TV channels desperately need something to kill space or time with.

But amidst the seemingly endless stream of suspended, drug-abusing and jail-bound athletes that scroll across the bottom of your TV screens every day, there are legitimately good people who play professional sports. In fact, there are lots of them.

And right here in Colorado, there are two shining examples.

They always say you know who your friends are when you need help. Denver South running back Phillip Lindsay, a University of Colorado commitment for next fall, needed a friend after tearing his ACL last month, ending his senior season only midway through September.

The fifth-ranked recruit in the state (per Rivals.com) was understandably down and worried about his future after experiencing such a severe injury.

But despite being one of Colorado’s premier high school football talents, there was no way Lindsay could’ve guessed what would happen next.

Exactly 24 hours after Lindsay’s ACL surgery last Wednesday, the high schooler looked down at his phone and had a call from a random number.

It was Broncos running back Willis McGahee.

“It’s a big deal for someone like that to give me a call,” Lindsay told Mile High Sports last Friday. “(He suffered knee) injuries and he’s playing in the NFL right now, so it’s big. He’s making sure my spirits are still high.”

Many will remember McGahee’s horrific knee injury in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, where a hit from Ohio State safety Will Allen shattered McGahee’s knee – and draft stock – in the fourth quarter of the national title game that year. McGahee needed several surgeries before returning to football, where he was selected 23rd overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2003 draft.

Since that injury, all McGahee has done is rack up four 1,000-yard seasons, two Pro Bowls and serve as a role model for others who have encountered similar hardships. Not too shabby.

After fellow Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno tore his ACL last November in Kansas City, McGahee helped counsel and mentor the much-maligned former first-round pick. Moreno wound up making the Broncos’ roster this season despite a fierce training camp battle for a spot in the team’s backfield.

Now, Lindsay is the latest recipient of McGahee’s words of motivation. Lindsay said that McGahee plans to call him once a week indefinitely, when the Broncos’ starting running back will offer words of advice about recovering from the injury that nearly took down his own career.

“He’s just making sure he’s praying for me and everything else,” Lindsay said. “We’re going to continue to get a bond.”

It’s the kind of story you don’t see often in the money-driven, ego-laden and stat-oriented professional sports world that we live in and are so often reminded of. But McGahee is choosing to pay it forward to a high school kid, when nobody would have asked or criticized him had he not chosen to pick up the phone.

McGahee – who hasn’t been in the headlines for the wrong reasons during his nine-year NFL career – is just one example of an athlete who does things the right way.

As for Lindsay’s commitment to CU, you might ask? The Colorado kid is staying loyal to Colorado, despite the Buffaloes’ less-than-promising start to the season.

“I’m 100 percent CU Buffs,” Lindsay said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re losing by 100. I made a commitment and they made a commitment to me. That’s a big-time thing to know they care about me, not just as an athlete, but as a person.”

It wouldn’t be hard to blame Lindsay for flirting elsewhere. According to Rivals.com, he had at least one other Pac-12 offer from Utah and was picking up interest from other notable D-1 programs, as well.

But like the Miami-born and -bred McGahee, Lindsay is staying loyal to his hometown school. Perhaps Lindsay is starting to learn from his new mentor.

The next time you see the next inevitable headline flash about a player doing the wrong thing, remember athletes like Willis McGahee and Phillip Lindsay who act the right way.

Even if you don’t read about it or see it.

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