September 12, 2014

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) Derek McCartney used to saunter next door to his grandfather's house as a teenager to hear riveting stories.

The Colorado defensive lineman never tired of listening to tales about the Buffaloes' 1990 national championship team or Kordell Stewart's Hail Mary pass in a game dubbed the ''Miracle in Michigan.''

Then again, McCartney has quite a storyteller for a grandpa - legendary Colorado coach Bill McCartney.

Little wonder after all those yarns that the grandson had his heart set on attending Colorado.

No surprise, either, that when the redshirt freshman runs into Folsom Field for the home opener Saturday night against No. 16 Arizona State, the proud grandfather will be front and center.

''I'm 74 years old and in the fourth quarter of life. For me to have this opportunity, to be a part of Derek's life, is a privilege,'' said Bill McCartney, the all-time winningest coach at Colorado and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. ''It's just thrilling for me that he's here, at Colorado, because this school was so good to me.''

Football simply runs in the family. Derek's father, Shannon Clavelle, was a defensive lineman for Colorado from 1992-94 before playing a few seasons in the NFL. His brother, T.C. McCartney, played at Louisiana State and now is in quality control with the Cleveland Browns. T.C. also is the son of late Colorado quarterback Sal Aunese.

And then there's his grandfather, Bill, who guided the Buffaloes to national prominence. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn't ask Derek if he's somehow related to the coach.

''I like when that happens,'' said the 20-year-old, who has one sack and six tackles through two games. ''It's really cool to have my grandfather in my life. It's really helpful for me.''

Go ahead and quiz Derek about Colorado football. Chances are his grandfather has covered the topic with him.

Who caught Stewart's pass that day in Michigan nearly 20 years ago? Easy, Michael Westbrook. After all, his grandpa has a picture of the play and a button to push to hear the broadcast audio.

''Love listening to that,'' said Derek, who also was close with his grandmother, Lyndi McCartney, before she died in 2013. ''One of my favorite things in his house.''

The grandfather and grandson are close. Always have been. Derek and his mom, Kristy, along with T.C., moved next door to the longtime coach in Westminster, Colorado, when Derek was around middle-school age. Back then, Derek wasn't as close with his father as he's becoming now ("it's really cool, seeing our relationship grow,'' he said).

His mom is one of his biggest role models and supporters. Same goes for his grandfather.

He and his grandpa chat at least once a week, with Derek letting him know what's going on with football and school work. Before he even played a down for the Buffaloes, Derek was well on his way to his degree in physiology and on pace to graduate in the spring of 2016.

For as much as he loves football, his biggest desire is to become a doctor.

''This is a kid with high character and tremendous potential,'' Bill said. ''It's not limited to just football.''

Derek grew up hearing the stories about Rashaan Salaam winning the Heisman Trophy and how Colorado beat Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl to cement the national title. But Derek's favorite story revolves around something that happened on the sideline, when running back Eric Bieniemy delivered an impromptu pep talk to a struggling defense.

''The way my grandfather tells it, Eric pulled them off to the side and fired them up,'' said Derek, who played both defensive end and tight end in high school. ''It's a story about how one guy can make a difference through leadership.''

Derek is hoping to be that kind of leader for the Buffaloes, a team that hasn't been to a bowl game since 2007. He sees a lot of the original coach Mac, his grandfather, in the new coach Mac - Mike MacIntyre, who's off to a 1-1 start in his second season in charge.

''I never knew my grandpa as a coach. But I see a lot of similarities in the way my grandpa helped raise me and just the way that both of them encourage a lot to motivate,'' Derek said. ''We're way more disciplined (as a team). It's going to start showing up pretty soon here.''

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