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Prep football: Jim McMahon returns to Roy to have number retired

Published September 17, 2011 7:44 am

Football • Two-time Super Bowl champion honored with morning assembly, halftime tribute.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Roy • Jim McMahon said he didn't know where half of his classes were at Brigham Young University, but Friday he found his way back to the school where he started on his path to becoming one of the state's most legendary athletes.

In an hourlong tribute to his awesomeness, the two-time Super Bowl champion was honored at Roy High with a video presentation and various odes to his legacy. The morning assembly was part of the build-up to the school retiring McMahon's famous No. 9 jersey — which he first wore as a Royal — during halftime of Roy's game against Box Elder.

"It's a great honor," McMahon said. "That's going to be up there forever, as long as the school's there."

McMahon said he hadn't been back to Roy since graduating.

"It's nice to come back to a place I actually did graduate from, because I'm still missing that college thing," said McMahon, who is not in the BYU Hall of Fame because he was nine credits short of graduating.

Given the reception he got on a day dedicated to him, it hardly seemed like he ever left.

Students born a decade and a half after McMahon left Roy wore T-shirts bearing his likeness and sported headbands and sunglasses, McMahon's trademarks. The cheerleaders and dance team performed the "Super Bowl Shuffle," a song and dance made famous by the '85 Bears, who did indeed win the Super Bowl.

McMahon graduated from Roy in 1977 after leading the Royals to a region football championship as a senior and being named the Class 4A MVP in both football and baseball, as well as shining at basketball.

"He played quarterback like a linebacker," said Roy coach Fred Fernandes, who was a sophomore receiver for the Royals when McMahon was the senior quarterback.

Highlight tape flickered against a large white screen Friday, showing off McMahon's arm and strength.

McMahon may have been the greatest quarterback to ever come out of Utah, but he said Friday the position wasn't even his first choice.

"I always wanted to be a receiver," he said, "but I was too slow. A QB? It's a fun position. If the linemen block, it's fun. If they don't, it sucks. My youngest boy played two years of high school football — he was a quarterback. But he was 6-5, 240 pounds, he was bigger than all of his linemen and he got his ass beat every game. I said, 'It's no fun when they don't block, is it?' "

McMahon suffered five concussions as an NFL player and is leading a group of former players who are suing the NFL over negligence related to head injuries.

"That's what I deal with every day, trying to get out of bed," McMahon said. "That's why I moved to Arizona — the warm, dry heat feels so much better on my body. I'm having some symptoms now. I know I've got problems."

He said he struggles sometimes with memory.

The College Football Hall of Famer touched on some lighter topics, as well. While he was a three-sport star in high school — he had a scholarship offer to play hoops at Utah State and played freshman baseball with the Cougars — he didn't discover hockey until it was too late to start.

"That was a sport I'd have loved to play," McMahon said. "Hit a guy in the face with a stick and only get two minutes? I'd have lived in that penalty box."

boram@sltrib.com

Twitter: @oramb