The sound of fans filled Wildcat Stadium on Sept. 1, a day of new beginnings for ACU football along with a new quarterback in the spotlight.
Stepping under the bright lights was a quarterback looking for a new start. One who was anxious, but eager to get back on the gridiron after a career filled with ups-and-downs, hard work and determination.
One who was playing his first game in nearly four years after being sidelined twice due to injuries.
The fateful day for the quarterback was Sept. 7, 2018. The Central High Bobcats of San Angelo were coming off a successful 2017 campaign, led by six-man turned 11-man quarterback Maverick McIvor.
His high school junior year was one for the books, leading the team to an 11-1 record and a district championship. McIvor finished the season throwing for 3,372 yards and 43 touchdowns with only eight interceptions, plus running for 864 yards and eight touchdowns.
Entering his high school senior year, Maverick earned offers from 17 NCAA Division I football programs. His head coach at the time, Brent Davis, called McIvor “one of those special kids that doesn’t come along very often.”
Heading into 2018, McIvor was poised for another standout season. But a week two matchup against the Del Rio Rams changed the trajectory of his football career.
While running along the left sideline, a member of the Rams’ defense blindsided McIvor, tackling him around the knees and knocking him out of bounds. He left the game with a knee injury, later diagnosed as an ACL and meniscus tear.
This brought Maverick’s standout high school career to an abrupt end.
But the quarterback had a close support system familiar with his struggles, led by his father, Rick McIvor.
Eagle-eyed University of Texas football fans may recognize the name Rick McIvor. The elder McIvor served as a quarterback for the Longhorns from 1979 to 1983, earning numerous accolades, and also suffered a knee injury similar to his son in college. He went on to be drafted in the NFL and played for the then St. Louis Cardinals for two seasons.
His father introduced Maverick to football at a young age. Later in life, McIvor went on to coach his son at the six-man level from sixth grade to ninth grade. There, Rick poured into his son, teaching him all he knew, and eventually supported him through his injury.
“The key thing he taught me was hard work,” Maverick said. “My dad wanted what was best for me and helped me try to be perfect at what I do. It molded me, grew me and served as the foundation of who I am now.”
A move to San Angelo and to Central High School introduced Maverick to a new world, 6A 11-man football, the biggest stage of high school football in the state of Texas.
Though it was a significant jump, he was able to relearn and step into the 11-man quarterback position smoothly. That was partly due to the hours of film sessions with then offensive coordinator, and now Central High head coach, Kevin Crane.
“I’d ask him a question and if he answered wrong or wasn’t quick enough with the answer, he got frustrated,” Crane said. “He spent extra time in my office, watching film and soaking everything up. Once he learned something, he had it down.”
Even after suffering the knee injury, McIvor still held offers from multiple universities. Ultimately, he committed to play at Texas Tech, the university’s highest ranked recruit since Patrick Mahomes.
The ever-looming injury bug followed McIvor to Lubbock. Maverick suffered another knee injury in a preseason practice for Texas Tech his freshman year.
This benched McIvor for the majority of his true freshman year and led him to redshirt in the 2020 season. Then, after not seeing action in the 2021 season, he entered the transfer portal.
McIvor found a new home at Abilene Christian, where his former defensive coordinator at Texas Tech, Keith Patterson, was hired as head coach.
After a tight quarterback battle in fall camp, Patterson chose McIvor to start the 2022 season. The new head coach had high praise and faith in the quarterback, comparing him to NFL greats like Brett Farve, saying McIvor is the type of quarterback to “grip it, rip it and let it fly.”
The season opener on Sept. 1 finally rolled around, and even with all the pressure and weight of the past four years on his shoulder, McIvor excelled.
His first collegiate start ended with McIvor throwing 258 passing yards and two touchdowns. The Wildcats finished the night with a 28-14 win over Lamar, the first season opening win for ACU football since 2013.
Since the season opener, the Wildcats have started 3-0 at home for the first time in the program’s Division I history. The program also sees its best start since 2013, which sits at 3-1.
But the statistics do not matter to McIvor, he is just happy to be back under the lights of the gridiron.
“Words can’t even describe how good it feels to be back out there,” McIvor said. “It was everything I’ve ever dreamed of since I was in fourth grade. This is exactly what I wanted to do since I can remember, just come out here and lead the boys and light up the scoreboard. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.”