Billy McCrary hadn’t seen the back of the end zone since he was playing at Rouse.
He found the familiar square of turf once again Saturday night at McLane Stadium in Waco when the former Raider took a handoff and bounced it to the outside before sprinting 75 yards down the sideline for his first touchdown as a member of Abilene Christian, stiff-arming a couple Baylor players along the way.
“You could see it at the end, I was stumbling a little bit,” McCrary said. “It’s been a long time. I was all tied up. I actually didn’t breathe that whole run. Afterward, I was a little bit out of breath. It was crazy. Just the adrenaline going when I got back on the sideline. That was awesome.”
McCrary finished the game as the Wildcats’ leading rusher with 141 yards and the one touchdown on six carries. He broke off another long run of 47 yards during an ACU touchdown drive in the third quarter.
The Wildcats were one of the worst rushing teams in the country last season at the FCS level, ranking 112th of 125 teams after averaging 86.8 yards per game on the ground.
McCrary originally went to California after starring for Rouse, but only appeared in 10 games, compiling 39 yards on six carries in two seasons, and he sat out all last season with a medical redshirt.
He’s clearly already made an impact with his new team.
“Billy is a game-changer,” ACU head coach Adam Dorrel said. “We’ve been cautiously optimistic. He’s the fastest guy on our team. He’s going to continue to grow. To see him kick off the rust tonight and compete was exciting.”
McCrary put up video game-like numbers in three seasons at Rouse. He contributed more than 70 touchdowns in his high school career, rushing for 3,968 yards and 53 touchdowns and passing for 19 more scores in three years on the varsity squad.
A three-time All-District selection, he led the Raiders in rushing during each of his final three seasons and helped them reached state semifinals for the first time in school history as a junior in 2013.
“He came through when we were still getting our name out as a program,” Rouse head coach Josh Mann said. “He was very special to us as a football player. But he was also a transcending leader for our campus and someone that our community could look up to as well.”
Mann said McCrary said it was a lot of work to get him a scholarship and he had a lot of offers from all across the state, but Cal was the biggest school to offer him. He said it’s harder to evaluate a player when they’re going from quarterback to a skill position like McCrary was.
On Saturday, a couple coaches were hanging out at Mann’s house watching college football and the Baylor/ACU game was on TV after another one got rained out. Mann said he had flashbacks to McCrary's time at Rouse when he broke off his big touchdown run.
“It didn’t surprise me at all,” Mann said. “He can go. People constantly underestimate him and he showed it at that level. He would probably be the fastest player on a lot of teams in America.”
Family is very important to McCrary.
Part of the reason he can back to Texas was to be closer to home. The Wildcats’ hotel for the game against Baylor was in Temple, about five minutes from his home.
“When I transferred here in December, I went home every single weekend,” McCrary said. “I got to hang out with my family. We got to sit down and watch movies or whatever. I’m a different player and it feels good to get on the field again and perform.”