RYAN REEBENACKER, KNIGHT WIRE CO-MANAGER
JoJo McNair, a senior all-conference football and baseball player for the Wartburg Knights, faces a choice between playing football and baseball following the postponement of the American Rivers Conference (A-R-C) football season to the spring.
“For me I had to talk to my mom and my dad, I talked to Coach [Rick] Willis, I talked to Coach [Chris] Winter, and I was kind of confused on what I wanted to do,” McNair said. “And the first thing my dad said was, ‘If you want to play, you’ve got to practice and play in the fall because if you want to get to that next level you’ve got to find a way to get back on the football field again.’ And then we just got shut down so quickly and I was like, ‘Huh, this is what can really happen.’ It feels like a movie, I’m telling you, it feels just like a movie.”
McNair has long played as a two-way threat for the football team, playing cornerback and wide receiver in the fall, then transitioning to centerfield for baseball in the spring. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the senior’s plans have been turned on their head. He’s leaning toward baseball but hasn’t made a final decision, he said.
“We had practice on Friday, and as soon as we got out there [Wartburg Head Football Coach Rick Willis] was on the phone and he was like, ‘Well, everybody bring it in.’ We were like, ‘What?’ We didn’t know what was going on,” McNair recalled. “Then he told us, like, how many people were infected and how many guys we were missing out there on the field for the first day. He was like, ‘Well we got to shut it down because there were too many people getting coronavirus.’”
August 11, 2020, ended with the volleyball, football and men’s and women’s soccer seasons being postponed until spring. The delay has given McNair “too much” time to think about what sport he has been leaning toward for the spring of 2021.
Willis, also Wartburg’s athletic director, said that the A-R-C has not officially set a schedule for the spring. Athletes, he said should expect a shorter season, if one happens at all.
“We’re going to have, maybe, half the amount of contests as in a regular season,” Willis said. Last year, the Knights played 12 games, including two postseason contests. “There’s a lot of variables across our league that are going to come into play as we try to do that. That’s something that is going to happen here within the next month I would guess.”
The likelihood of a shortened football season has played a large role in McNair’s choice so far, with the senior saying that baseball might be where his heart lies with the possibility of a full season.
“Football — if we play in the spring, what are we really playing for? You know? Play five games or so, no conference championship. But for baseball, we might have a chance to play an actual season and play for a conference championship,” McNair said. “I think I’m going to do baseball in the spring because I don’t wanna hurt myself doing football. I talked to Coach [Chris] Winter a little bit and he was like, ‘I’d rather have you do stuff in the fall than in the spring,’ because they don’t want me to get hurt and they want to save my body for next year.”
With all of the question marks surrounding his football future, and McNair’s hope to eventually be either an NFL or MLB player, McNair has confirmed that he is considering returning for a full fifth year of college to redeem his last seasons of eligibility for both sports.
“I have definitely thought about doing that,” McNair said. “It just depends on what’s happening this year [in college athletics].”