Former Corona Centennial quarterback Tanner McKee will board a flight Monday to San Antonio, then to São Paulo, Brazil, to begin his two-year Mormon mission. He’s bringing with him two footballs to a country that loves the other fútbol.
He has been studying Portuguese and will spend six to eight weeks in training in São Paulo before heading off to Curitiba, a city of 1.8 million. He’s 6 feet 6, so it might be hard for him to keep a low profile. But he’ll be on his own for the first time.
“I think I’m ready,” he said Tuesday after spending a day at the beach with friends in one of his final days before departing. “I’ve been looking forward to it.”
He’ll be able to email or write a letter once a week. He can call his family only on Mother’s Day and Christmas.
The goal, as he put it, is to “become a man” and help others as part of his church mission.
“There’s a ton of life lessons,” he said.
His fans in Corona didn’t exactly get a final chance to celebrate his many contributions at Centennial. He was stuck on the sideline in his team’s final football game last fall, the Division 1 semifinals, a 62-34 loss to St. John Bosco. He lost consciousness briefly in a game the week before and had to undergo concussion protocol.
“I was trying to get cleared but it didn’t look good from the start,” he said. “I was trying to be a good teammate.”
He was more than that. He earned great respect from teammates and opponents alike the way he played the game. His athleticism and intelligence enabled him to accept a football scholarship to Stanford, the school he will attend when he returns in the summer of 2020.
He has been watching the World Cup and rooting for Brazil. As for his fútbol skills, McKee said, “It’s all right. Not great, especially for the standards down there. Hopefully they will improve.”
He will get one hour each morning to work out. He’’ll be looking for kids and other volunteers to catch his passes when he throws a football each day during his eight-week training session. After that, he might get to throw once a week.
Either way, football is on hold. He has chosen to spend the next two years learning about life far away from home. You can bet he’ll be making a difference. And when he returns, his friends, family and fans will be ready to root for him in his comeback on the football field. It will go fast, and soon he’ll be a Stanford Cardinal.