Who We Are: Josh McCauley
"I definitely like to think I still carry that chip on my shoulder. Although, it's probably transformed into what our team stands for now in making it personal and taking the things that have happened in the past and using them as motivation for us to go forward this season and have an unbelievable year." – Josh McCauley
Major: Criminal Justice (Undergrad), Real Estate Development (Graduate)
Hometown: Mesa, Ariz.
If you ask any athlete who's done it, the journey from walk-on to starter is certainly not an easy one. Redshirt-senior Josh McCauley knows all about the process of working your way up and having to prove yourself everyday solely through hard work ethic. It also takes an incredible amount of determination. McCauley's journey from walk-on to starter embodies Arizona's "Bear Down" spirit of determination. That determination is one of the core values of Arizona's "Wildcat Way" strategic plan.
"You do have to work harder, I believe, than everyone else just because there's a certain number of reps that you're going to get and you have to make those reps stand out," said McCauley.
After entering the program as a walk-on in 2016, McCauley took a redshirt year, giving himself time to train and learn the ropes under the guidance of some veteran players.
"Back during my freshman year, some of the older guys told me 'don't be that guy' and I think that kind of stuck with me. Don't be that guy who's on the list for getting into trouble or not staying on top of your academics or missing weights. I think that's a huge piece of advice– just put your head down and do the work and you'll see the results."
That's exactly what McCauley did during his redshirt year: put his head down and did the work. As an offensive lineman, there was a lot of physical prep work that went into it.
"When I got here, I was maybe 260 pounds," he said. "Offensive line is a tough position to play at that weight– you really can't. My mentality going into that season was to gain the weight that I needed to play and just absorb as much information as I could and hopefully at the end of the year I will be in the position to be able to contribute going forward."
He eventually found himself in such a position during the 2017 season when he made his collegiate debut making appearances against NAU, UTEP and Oregon State. After getting a taste of what he had been working towards, McCauley's drive to prove himself as a valuable asset to the team was unwavering.
"There's a mentality that comes with being a walk-on that in order to get noticed, you have to work harder than other people in your position group. You have to put in more time in the weight room and the film room, you have to be able to find ways to stand out."
And stand out he did. McCauley was named starting center for the entirety of the 2018 season in which the Wildcats were the top rushing unit in the Pac-12, averaging 202.4 ypg. He played a key role in pass protection, which allowed the third fewest sacks in the conference.
"Becoming the starting center was really rewarding," he said. "It gave a sense of accomplishment for all of the work that I put in. For it to really pay off and show some results was huge."
McCauley held the starting center position throughout both the 2019 and 2020 seasons, earning himself a scholarship. His impact on the field, which included helping the offense gain 539 yards against Hawai'i and 314 rushing and 499 yards of total offense in a home win over Texas Tech, landed him on the Rimington Award Watch List for both seasons.
While his game has drawn some national attention over the past few years, his focus remains on the team and what they have their sights set on this upcoming season.
"It's pretty cool and all, but I have bigger plans," McCauley said. "It would be nice to win the award after being nominated for three years now, but we have bigger plans to win games and build a program here at Arizona. We're going for a team effort here and all the personal stuff can be set aside."
Heading into his senior season, McCauley has not lost that chip on his shoulder. Only now, it looks a little different.
"I definitely like to think I still carry that chip on my shoulder. Although, it's probably transformed into what our team stands for now in making it personal and taking the things that have happened in the past and using them as motivation for us to go forward this season and have an unbelievable year. My college career has gone from trying to prove myself to now trying to win games, so I think that's now the chip on my shoulder– making the last couple of years personal and really coming out this year and proving something."
Amidst the changing culture in Arizona football, McCauley certainly recognizes the significance of what it means to be a walk-on in Arizona Stadium. With someone like Chuck Cecil on the coaching staff, any walk-on can see for themselves what you can do with such an opportunity.
"Coach Cecil started his career here as a walk-on as well," McCauley said. "It means a lot to be a walk-on at Arizona and you really carry that with you for the rest of your life. Coach Cecil shows it every day. He's unbelievably proud of this university and what it's given to him and I'm the same way."
Now that McCauley is the veteran on the team and in a place to give advice, he knows what he would say to those who are in a similar position he was back in 2016.
"My advice would be to just enjoy it. It's been an unbelievable journey and I've loved every minute of being here. Being a walk-on at Arizona is a great opportunity and you wear that on your sleeve, so show up and make the most of it."