By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
He was supposed to be a great one, the way that chocolate soufflé your wife made last night was supposed to be a great one, right before you took her out for dessert.
What’s supposed to be doesn’t always come to be, and Ivan McCartney knows he’s lucky he has been given one more chance.
You remember when he arrived on the West Virginia University scene, coming up from Florida from the same high school that sent quarterback Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey, related to Chad Johnson, aka Chad Ochocinco.
The blood line was there, the ability was there, but somehow he wasn’t there.
He caught some balls, probably not enough to match expectations in this pass-happy offense they run at WVU.
Two years back he did catch 49 passes, but fell out of favor as Smith zeroed in on Bailey and Tavon Austin, and then last year the world caved in on him, as it always seems to have a way of doing, and after nine catches and limited playing time he left the team.
Nothing really much was said of it other than goodbye and good luck, and it was assumed that McCartney would turn up in some other program to play out a final year of eligibility, but then came word that he was returning.
Without an experienced receiver in sight, McCartney suddenly took on a new-found importance, although coach Dana Holgorsen would hardly anoint him with it knowing his history.
What had happened to make McCartney leave in mid-year with saying goodbye?
“My grandfather was very sick, so I went back and helped him and my dad out,” he said in his first meeting with the media. “I continued to work out because I knew I would be playing again. Everything just folded and played its part. Everything just happens for a reason. I am glad to be back.”
There were, of course, whispers about why he had left, and none of them mentioned his grandfather.
“A lot of people heard different things but didn’t really know what was going on,” he said. “There were a lot of things I was dealing with I didn’t want to put out. I never took myself away from the West Virginia team, but I did have doubts that I would be back.
“I just prayed up about it and kept pushing.”
Meanwhile, Holgorsen was getting receivers from everywhere but old-fashioned telephone sets.
Tall, short, fast, slow, they all came.
Everything but experienced.
Then one day McCartney contacted WVU and said he wanted to return.
“Everything just played out how it was supposed to play out. It was God’s will for me to come back here,” McCartney said.
Holgorsen, of course, didn’t want the same old McCartney back. He wanted a new one, an ambitious one who would lead a young receiving corps.
“At the end of the day I had to come in and prove myself and work hard,” he said.
Rest assured, nothing will be given to him. This a different receiving crew than last year’s, which was terribly top heavy with Bailey and Austin, but which had no depth.
This year, Holgorsen has brought in a talented group of receivers who seem capable of making an impact if one of the quarterbacks can emerge and the offensive line gels.
“We are more as one,” McCartney said. “This team is more family oriented, and everybody is hungry. We push each other; this is a team. That is the biggest difference from last year.”
And he has to be a leader.
“With the things that I have been through, I think that it is the right thing for me to do — to bring the younger guys up the right way instead of taking the wrong way. Maturing is a big part of the game now,” he said.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.