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Johnathon McCrary has not always been the hardest worker, he will tell you as much.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound dual-threat quarterback from Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove admits his fire in the weight room and out on the hill has only been fueled recently.
"When I was a freshman and a sophomore I barely hit the gym," he said. "I wasn't doing it right. Maybe throw around the weights a little but I didn't care about it.
"Then I started taking it more serious. I started pushing past what I thought were my limits. I didn't want to lose a game and blame myself for not working as hard as I could."
It is his work ethic that he credits with his move up to the No. 2 player at his position and the No. 80 overall player in the Rivals100.
It is also that work ethic that he thinks will separate him from the other competitors at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge from June 22-24.
"I have really been pushing myself," he said. "I will be willing to work harder than any kid that is there."
The invitation-only event will be held at Lakewood Stadium in South Atlanta - just a 20 minute drive from the McCrary's house.
The proximity to home will not make this as much of a getaway for McCrary as the other participants but he doesn't mind the location.
"It doesn't matter where we are playing, I am just excited to get the chance to show I am the best," he said. "There are great competitors from all over the country going to be there so you can just look around and see how good you really are."
McCrary has already committed to Vanderbilt - a commitment he says will stick no matter what - and said that with his recruiting door closed it has opened more time in the weight room.
He said that his day is pretty set in its routine now.
"I wake up at 4:30 and get ready for the day, eat breakfast," McCrary said. "I get to school around 6:00 or 6:30 so I can get a legit workout in, then I have school (Spanish and Math to start the day), then around 11:15 I am back at it. In the gym or on the hill running and it gets hot down here, the hill will have you burning through your cleats. The afternoon classes come next (economics) and then back to weight room at 2:25.
"It is my goal to be dead tired before I get to practice. Then if you can get through a tough practice with that routine a game is going to be nothing. Kids who don't work that hard will be gassed in the fourth quarter and I will still have a ton of energy left."
McCrary said that after practice he heads home, eats, does his homework and is in bed ready for the next day.
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It is a routine that pushes him forward.
"Where I come from people don't take advantage of their opportunities," he said. "I don't want to be part of that cycle."
His decision to take part in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge is another way to step out into the spotlight.
"I want to make people say 'How can he do that,'" McCrary said. "These kind of events, and 7-on-7 stuff, are set up to expose your weaknesses and I want to make the throws that expose some people."
Mike Farrell's take
McCrary is a very athletic quarterback but is also solid in the pocket, but let's be clear - 7 on 7 play does not showcase all of his abilities so accuracy and touch as well as clock management will be the keys here. He's battling to remain as the top-ranked quarterback in the Southeast this year and he will have some impressive targets to throw to in Atlanta. How will he do under pressure, can he lead the Southeast team, always the favorite at 7 on events it seems, to the title and will his decision making be sound. There is a lot of swagger in the Southeast and the players take a lot of pride in being the best region in the country so McCrary will need to be a leader.
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