Less than a week after being named to the American Football Coaches Association's 2016 AllState Good Works team for his “dedication to bettering the community and the lives of others,” McCartney suffered a season-ending knee injury.
He returned a Chidobe Awuzie forced fumble to the end zone to put Colorado up 14-0 against No. 4 Michigan last Saturday, but during a play in the middle of the second quarter, he “landed funny” and felt his knee buckle.
“I didn't quite know what was wrong but I didn't go back in because it didn't feel right,” McCartney said. “It is really disappointing but I just have to be there for my teammates and do what I can to help them.”
McCartney said this is the first time he has suffered a severe injury.
“I came out here today and they see me in crutches and they are like, 'Hey man, praying for you, care about you.' They asked me how I am doing,” McCartney said of his teammates. “I love them and they love me. It is just the kind of team we have.”
Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre described McCartney as their “biggest, strongest outside linebacker.” He entered his junior campaign with nine-and-a-half career sacks and was a third-team all-Pac-12 pick in two preseason publications.
“He's a good player for us, great leader. The next guy has got to step up and go,” MacIntyre added.
N.J. Falo, who saw defensive action in seven games last season, returns to the mix at outside linebacker after serving a three-game suspension to begin the season. Christian Shaver and Terran Hasselbach also figure to see an increased role in McCartney's absence, opposite Jimmie Gilbert, the Buffs' other starter at outside linebacker.
McCartney made national headlines in the spring when he became a match for someone in need of a bone marrow transplant. He went through the grueling process of donating and missed a good portion of spring ball as a result.
McCartney graduated in May after just three years with a degree in Integrative Physiology, one of CU's most challenging majors.
And after losing his girlfriend and his grandmother in the same year, McCartney was awarded the 2015 Clancy A. Herbst Student-Athlete Award, which is presented to an athlete that overcame challenges off-the-field.
After rehabbing his torn ACL, McCartney is expected to have one more year of eligibility to compete with the Buffs in 2017.