"Gardner McKay's been working really hard this offseason," said fellow defensive back and senior Ryan Walters. "He's really realizing his role and his opportunity to be the starting cornerback."
The former four-star recruit from Inglewood, Calif., has played each of his first three years at Colorado. Last year, he appeared in every game and registered 16 tackles. But McKay never stepped forward and grabbed firm hold of a starting position.
With Terrence Wheatley graduated and Ben Burney likely to miss the 2008 season recovering from offseason surgery, McKay is the veteran cornerback on the team. It appears like he's ready to step up his game.
"I'm striving hard, working hard," McKay said after Monday's spring practice. "I knew Coach Pitman, (CU's strength and conditioning coach), was on me from when he got here two years ago. I'm just trying to prove to everybody that I can work hard."
McKay has added roughly 12 pounds to his admittedly slight frame this offseason. After playing at 158 pounds some games last fall, he's tipping the scales at 170. And he hasn't lost a step. He also power cleaned 300 pounds in team strength testing last week — not bad for a player his size.
"The speed is still there, I'm just stronger," McKay said. "I feel good. I'm more versatile. And I'm more mentally ready."
Indeed, the added strength and weight should help the physical side of McKay's game, one which has never lacked in cover ability. He'll compete with a group of youngsters at cornerback that includes sophomores Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith, and redshirt freshmen Anthony Wright, Jonathan Hawkins and Lamont Smith.
McKay sees the 2008 season is an opportunity.
"I'm ready to do this," he said. "This is my last year, my last go around. I have to be ready."