The Curious Case of Keith McCants


keith-mccants-arrested-again-(1)The man who lived.

By Luke Robinson

 

Working with our Sportzblitz and AHSAA Radio Network teams out of Alexander City gives me the opportunity to do a lot of interesting stuff. I get to do play-by-play for state championship games and meet the state’s most prominent recruits. Most notably, I get to handle a lot of interviews with sports personalities.

Over the course of the last seven or eight years, we have been very fortunate to have some pretty big national names on our programming. It’s odd because some of the best-known players and coaches give the worst interviews. Without divulging names, a few of our biggest guests have left me more bored than Gene Chizik’s dentist (you know, because there has never been photographic evidence that Gene has teeth. His chompers are a dentist’s Sasquatch). In the last few months, though, I have had the two most fascinating interviews in years.

First was former Alabama linebacker Keith McCants. The second was current Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome (also a former Alabama player, of course), whom I will discuss in a later article hopefully. Keith McCants was just too interesting to keep to half of a column.

If you are of my generation or before, Keith McCants is a name that you probably remember. He was an incredible athlete from the Mobile area who was the heir apparent to Derrick Thomas at Alabama (who was the heir apparent to Cornelius Bennett at Alabama) in the late 1980s. That’s a strong trio of linebackers to have in a row, let me tell you.

McCants had many spectacular moments at the Capstone, with his improbable rundown of Auburn’s Shane Wadsden in the Iron Bowl probably being the most discussed. He was an outstanding, All-American player who wound up being selected fourth in the 1990 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay. His pro career was decent but shortened by injuries and position changes dictated by bad coaching decisions.

The aforementioned facts alone would make for a heck of a life story if it all ended right there. A poor kid from the streets of Mobile found success through sports. But many of McCants’s best stories come from off of the playing field. Or at least on its sidelines.

For instance, in 1993, McCants was one of the first players to step in and break up the in-game, intra-coaching-staff fight between Buddy Ryan and Kevin Gilbride, the defensive and offensive coaches respectively of the Houston Oilers. If you have never seen that incident, YouTube it immediately. Go ahead; I’ll wait. I’ll just go make myself a sandwich. (Cue Jeopardy theme).

You back? OK. It gets even more fascinating than McCants being a de facto sidelines bouncer. McCants, who has had his fair share of legal run-ins himself (many due to his dependency on prescription drugs from football-related injuries, per McCants himself), was our state’s first African-American marine police officer. He was also once a guest on a show called Tailgating with Kato Kaelin. Yes, that Kato Kaelin (seriously…do you know any others?)

Further, McCants was one of the focal points of the acclaimed ESPN series 30 for 30 in the episode titled, “Broke.” It was not a how-to show about managing money but instead dove into the issues of former sports millionaires losing it all. He even appeared on a show with a member of the boy band 98 Degrees for some reason. Oddly, my bet is that that is his most embarrassing moment. Oh, and he once gave advice to Emmitt Smith and his foot race with a young Lindsay Harding and inspired her to achieve greatness in the WNBA (or so she claims in her biography).

Finally—and fittingly—he is a master scuba diver to top it off.

So, like a bad fifth-grade book report, allow me to summarize this very, very, very, very, very intriguing story: Keith McCants is a former high school and college All-American who has been an NFL-money-making, master-scuba-diving, WNBA-inspiring, racial-barrier-shattering, made-for-TV-starring, OJ-Simpson-friend-tailgating, Emmitt-Smith-advice-giving, Shane-Wadsden-tackling, coach-fight-breaker-upper while being no stranger to the wrong side of the law himself on occasion.

Whew.

It sure would be easy to remember McCants for some of his more sordid moments. He was even on the police radar again recently. You could also remember him as the fabulous football player he once was. However, I will choose to remember him as quite possibly the most open and interesting person I have ever interviewed. The man needs to be the new Dos Equis spokesperson.

McCants may not have lived the most pristine life, but no one can say he didn’t live.

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