College Sports

Former Meridian standout makes it onto the field for UPS, just not playing quarterback

lwong@thenewstribune.com

Max McGuinn is two positions rolled into one.

No, the University of Puget Sound isn’t debuting a super-hybrid position new to football in its offensive backfield this season. It’s just that McGuinn, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior, views himself as a “quarterback playing running back.”

That is exactly what he is.

Seeing an opportunity to get on the field sooner two seasons ago, McGuinn, who was brought in as a quarterback, conceded the “handing off” chores to teammate Hans Fortune in favor of the “taking handoffs” portion of the Loggers’ offense.

And with wavy hair, chiseled arms and bulging calves, the man now wearing No. 47 looks the part.

“He is team first, team second,” UPS football coach Jeff Thomas said. “He has no care in the world for personal statistics.”

Huh? Now, that doesn’t sound like a quarterback.

Growing up in Bellingham, because of his stout size, McGuinn played a little bit of everything.

“I went from defensive end to the offensive line … because I was one of the tall guys,” McGuinn said. “In fifth grade, I did play some running back — when I was moved from tight end.”

McGuinn thought he had settled on one position in seventh grade — quarterback. In fact, when he became the starter for Meridian High School under legendary coach Bob Ames, he passed for 3,227 yards and 31 touchdowns in two seasons (2011-12).

He turned down an offer to play linebacker at Simon Fraser University to play quarterback at UPS.

With Braden Foley entrenched as the starting quarterback, McGuinn was used as a change-up quarterback running “Wildcat” plays.

It was in 2014, when a pair of injuries to Foley (shoulder) and starting running back Austin Wagner (knee), spun the wheel of McGuinn’s career.

Since Fortune’s drop-back passing style was most similar to Foley, Thomas inserted the Kenmore product as the new starter. Wagner’s injury opened the door for a position switch for McGuinn.

“I talked to (wide receiver) Brennan Schon about the idea after a game in the dorms, and he kind of laughed at it,” McGuinn said. “But I didn’t think it was too far of a stretch. I was on board with (the switch).”

After spending much of his sophomore season getting acclimated to his new role, McGuinn became the starting running back in 2015 — with his first start being against Claremont College.

“I took hard hits in high school, but it was nothing compared to the multitude of hits I took in that game,” McGuinn said. “I was much more sore after the game than I had ever been in my life.”

And yet, as the season wore on, the hits became less and less bothersome.

“I thought it would break me down,” McGuinn said. “But honestly, I felt better and better.”

Thomas said around midseason, McGuinn started playing the position full tilt. He had a 141-yard rushing game at Lewis & Clark.

“We knew he had the physicality in him to do it,” Thomas said. “It just took him a while to get used to carrying the ball, and having a purposeful approach to it.”

McGuinn finished the season with 73 carries for 322 yards — not bad numbers considering the Loggers were one of the top NCAA Division III passing programs in the country last season.

Even with Wagner back, and the presence of promising freshman Paul Thomas, Jeff Thomas expects McGuinn’s workload to increase to around 100 carries, and be more involved as a pass catcher.

So what does Fortune see when he looks behind him and sees his former quarterback-in-training partner playing running back?

“That he does everything,” Fortune said.

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