- By Jason Dougas Lewis
- In Local Legends
Former Washington Prep and UCLA star is driven in a new direction now; parenting, teaching, and coaching.
McElroy was an All City football player at Washington Prep High School, and while at UCLA he set records for most yards per catch in a season and in a career, and in kickoff return yards. He also was an All American in track and field.
Article originally published by the Los Angeles Sentinel. www.lasentinel.net
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor (2010-2013)
Speed, and a lot of it, can get an athlete very far. That was one attribute that Jim McElroy had, and he had a whole lot of it from a very early age.
McElroy was raised near 92nd Street and Budlong. He attended 95th St. Elementary School and Brett Hard Middle School before going to Washington Prep High School.
At a very early age his father, who has coached various sports the past 40 years, involved the young McElroy in athletics, and his stepmother managed a good household, involving him and his siblings at Sunnyside Baptist church.
McElroy normally played against older kids. He was not old enough to play on certain teams, but they put down that he was older than he was, and to avoid not weighing enough his coaches would put quarters in his pockets to make weigh in.
“By competing with older athletes, I started to realize that if I could compete with these guys, then I could compete with anybody,” McElroy said. “I wasn’t always the best, but I played with heart. I always played good when I had an opportunity to get in.”
His favorite sport was baseball, and he was a big Dodgers fan. But his favorite player was Ricky Henderson, who used his blazing speed to become the all time leader in stolen bases in Major League Baseball history.
But it did not take long for McElroy to gravitate to football, where he played for Inglewood. His first year he played every position except for center and quarterback.
“I played guard, tackle,” McElroy said. “I remember one play I was pulling and I outran the block. My coach said ’man you’re too fast to be blocking, we need to put you somewhere else.’”
It was not long after that that McElroy was getting the ball on a regular basis and scoring touchdowns. He was becoming a Pop Warner football legend.
His next step was Washington Prep. In the 9th grade he was a role player on the JV team, but as a 10th grader he was named the league’s MVP. He moved up to varsity in the 11th grade and he was named All League. At that point numerous colleges started to recruit him.
McElroy’s senior season was huge. He gained over 2,000 all-purpose yards, led the team in rushing, receiving, touchdowns, and touchdown passes. He was a high school All American and one of the top wide receivers in the nation.
Football was not McElroy’s only sport where he dominated. During his senior season he won the City title in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes in track and field. His 100 time was 10.70 seconds and his 200 time was 21.3.
McElroy played sports year round at that time. During the summer he would work at a local park, where he could swim and play basketball before he went to football practice.
“I was always in great shape and well conditioned because that was what I wanted to do. I would practice two or three times a day.”
Early in his high school career he was not the biggest or the best, but he simply outworked everybody, which helped him become a high school star athlete.
McElroy was just as competitive in school, where he and his stepsister would push each other to see how could get the best grades. That made him more appealing to colleges, because he had the grades to go along with his athletic abilities. That landed him at UCLA after he graduated from Washington Prep in 1994.
While at UCLA, McElroy set the school records for most yards per reception for a season with (22 yards), most yards per reception for a career (21 yards), and most kickoff return yards.
It did not take long for McElroy to get on the field at UCLA. During his freshman season, UCLA had two All American wide receivers in J. J. Stokes and Kevin Jordan. But McElroy was able to make it on the travel team, which was big for a freshman because the team only took six wide receivers on road trips.
That season McElroy started one game and he caught his first touchdown pass against USC, which was big to him because along with Stokes and Jordan on the field, USC’s Keyshawn Johnson was also playing in that game.
“For a freshman out of LA to make a big catch in that game, it was definitely a career highlight,” McElroy said.
Two games that McElroy has the greatest memories from was the USC game during his junior season and the game against Cal his senior season.
Against USC, UCLA was down by 17 points and McElroy was a major part of the comeback victory. He finished the game with nine catches for 149 yards.
Against Cal, McElroy finished the game with 130 receiving yards, two receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.
McElroy continued running track in college, and he said that he was closer to his teammates on that team because he had more in common with them. He ran a 10.4 100-meter dash, a 20.7 in the 200, and a 45.6 in the 400. He was a two time All American in the distance relay medley, and he was on the second fastest 4x100 relay team in UCLA history. His team ran a 38.4. The team that holds the school record at 38.2 had four Olympians on it.
The most memorable thing that McElroy takes from his time at UCLA was the life experiences that he obtained.
“Growing up in inner city LA you think that white people are evil, you don’t understand Asian culture and stuff like that,” McElroy said. “I think that going to UCLA and being able to graduate, and making the friends that I made of multi races, I think the most valuable thing that I got was racial barriers that were broken.”
After college, life without football was tough for McElroy, as he had jobs being a personal trainer and bartender. But his wife helped him find his niche in life. That is teaching and coaching.
McElroy taught and coached at Washington Prep, and he enjoys advising young students and athletes. Now he teaches at Hart Middle School, where his wife is a councilor. He is the football co-head coach at Hollywood High School and he is the head coach of the track team there.
Being a college graduate and now a parent, McElroy sees the importance of a strong household and good education.
“I think it’s a big importance to have both parents in the house, but I think it is more important to give a good message,” McElroy said. “Being a school teacher, I have to deal with parents who have kids who are totally disrespectful, rude, and are not motivated to learn. When I meet with the parents I can see where it comes from. The parent is not encouraging education. They are not encouraging the kid to do the right thing. I don’t know what message is being given at home, but the parents are so quick to blame the teacher for their kid’s mistakes, or their kids not learning. I think the system has failed the parents, so the parents do not have any faith in the educational system, so they teach their kids to disrespect it. There are kids who come to school and have it in their mind that this isn’t for me.”
College coaching may be in the future for McElroy, but right now he’s enjoying being a parent to his two-year-old daughter and four month old son. He wants to teach his children to be leaders, not followers, and he wants to teach them to always do the right thing
“You know when you go to parent conference and the teacher says, ‘Oh your child is so wonderful. They want to learn and work hard,’” McElroy said. “I can’t wait to hear those type of things. I was telling my wife the other day that the main thing for me right now is raising my children. I want to be really involved in their lives and help them become a good young woman and a good young man.”