Pac-12 breakout star – Colorado DE, Derek McCartney

After only six wins over the last two seasons, the Colorado Buffaloes and their fans have not had much to get excited about. Things might change a little in 2016, as defensive end Derek McCartney is a budding superstar with the potential to wreck games.

McCartney is the classic ‘tweener pass rusher in the mold of a Von Miller who lacks size but makes up for it and then some with excellent explosion and athleticism. Over the last two seasons, McCartney has been the premier pass rusher for the Buffaloes, but he looks poised to breakout in 2016 and become a household name in the Pac-12.

McCartney’s emergence has surprised many, including the coaches at Colorado. Coming out of high school, he was a two-star prospect or borderline Power 5 player with most evaluators projecting him as a tight end or fullback. Colorado, arguably the worst team in the Pac-12, didn’t even offer him a scholarship, instead making him greyshirt or postpone his enrollment until the second term of his freshman year. Once he finally joined the football team, he was redshirted for his freshman year.

Despite having to wait two full years before stepping onto a college football field, McCartney showed no signs of rust and quickly became one of the best players on the team. Since finally getting his shot, McCartney has established himself as one darn good football player, however he’s a lot more than just a football player.

In less than a year, McCartney lost his beloved grandmother to emphysema and his high school sweetheart to an inoperable heart tumor. Rather than wallow and quit in the face of these enormous tragedies, he has dedicated his life to their memories on the football field and in the classroom. McCartney is an integrative physiology major on a pre-med track who is on pace to graduate early in the hopes of becoming a doctor.

Derek McCartney is a breakout football star in the Pac-12, but he is an even better young man.

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