ARIZONA BOWL | At 25, Josh Magee catches on as receiver and mentor for South Alabama
Nobody needs to tell Josh Magee about life’s twists and turns.
More than six years ago he was drafted by the Houston Astros commencing a journey in which he played parts of three seasons in the minor leagues, attended three universities, switched schools to help care for his father and became a father himself.
Is it any wonder that many of the players on the South Alabama football team, some six or seven years younger, often seek guidance from the 25-year-old receiver?
“A lot of young players look up to me,” said Magee. “They know I played professional baseball and they always want to know about that experience. I try to give them positive feedback about their game. Even if I have to criticize their game I still want to give them positive feedback. I want to help them become better overall, on and off the field. I really care about the guys.”
Magee won state championships in football and baseball at Hoover (Ala.) High School. He signed with the Astros after being selected in the 18th round of the 2010 draft. In parts of three seasons as a second baseman with two rookie league affiliates he hit .254 with 27 stolen bases in 111 games. While decent numbers, he was released in July 2012.
“It matured me,” he said of the experience. “Getting knocked down, knowing that I was doing well and then getting released, kind of helped me grow as a man. I knew that I was not going to give up on anything and it made me more of a man knowing that nothing was going to be given to me.”
Later that summer he returned to football when he walked on at Alabama, where former Hoover assistant Kevin Sherrer was serving as director of player development on Nick Saban’s staff. Magee redshirted on a Crimson Tide team that won the BCS national title. That would be it for him in Tuscaloosa, though.
Sherrer, now at Georgia, was named South Alabama’s defensive coordinator following that 2012 season and Magee followed him to Mobile where both thought he would have a better opportunity to play. At the time, USA was a five-year-old program about to play its first season at the FBS level.
Magee sat out the 2013 season as a transfer and before he could take the field for the Jaguars he transferred again, to UAB, in the summer of 2014. He went to Birmingham to be closer to his ailing father, former major leaguer Wendell Magee. The elder Magee was suffering from a dental-related issue resulting in an infection that left him partially paralyzed and blind in the left eye.
“My dad got sick and I made a decision to get back closer to him,” said Magee, whose son was a year old at the time. “I did not know the diagnosis, so I went back home because I felt like that was the best thing; to get home and take care of him.”
Fortunately, Wendell Magee, who played in all or part of seven seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers, is doing much better these days.
“He is doing well,” said Magee. “He is blessed and glad to be alive.”
Finally taking the field as a college football player, the 5-11, 175-pound receiver had 702 all-purpose yards for the Blazers. Alas, UAB shut down its football program following that 2014 season and Magee again had to look elsewhere to resume his career.
Southern Miss expressed interest, but Magee decided to go back to Mobile for his final two years of eligibility. A familiar face in the person of Richard Owens played a role in the decision. The former NFL tight end was an offensive assistant on UAB’s staff the previous three seasons and now works with the Jaguars’ offensive line.
“I already had a good feeling about coming back to South Alabama,” said Magee. “I knew it was a good fit with Coach Owens, the process and the work ethic. Other than that, I just thought South Alabama would be the best fit for me.”
After averaging 21.9 yards on 23 receptions last season, Magee has been more involved in the offense this year. He heads into the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl Friday on ASN against Air Force second on the Jaguars in receptions (44) and receiving yards (668) while tied for the team lead with four TD catches.
He knows he will be tested in his final collegiate game going against Air Force’s secondary, in particular safety Weston Steelhammer.
“I will be going up against an All-American safety, a really good player,” he said. “Basically, we just need to stick to what we have been doing in practice, the fundamentals and go out there and win the game.”
Should South Alabama (6-6) emerge victorious over the Falcons (9-3) it would cap a nice couple of years for Magee, who has a communications degree and will try his hand in the NFL.
Given the road he has traveled to get to this point it would be foolish to bet against him. He kept his head up and kept plugging along during the most trying of times. That’s the core of the message he has for those who may be struggling in a similar fashion.
“I was always taught to control what you can control and that everything else will work itself out,” he said. “Always have faith in God and know that somebody else is in a worse position than you are in. Always know that things could be worse, so do not get down on yourself and keep persevering. Things will get better in the long run.”
They sure did for Josh Magee.
Photos courtesy South Alabama Athletics