The 2003 National Championship was the first college football game I really paid attention to (thanks a lot Maryland Terps). I remember Miami having a stable of NFL players, especially at running back. Willis McGahee was one of those backs. A great combination of speed and power, I remember him being a cinch top-10 pick, maybe even top-5 in the draft that spring going into that Fiesta Bowl. It’s crazy that Frank Gore started over him going into that 2002 season. Then this happened:
McGahee was bent over backwards, tearing every ligament in his left knee. Not only was his pro career threatened, there was a chance that he may not walk the same after the injury. But like any good running back, you have to keep your legs moving when you get contact. McGahee entered the draft, and the sure top-10 pick was drafted by the Buffalo Bills at 23 in the draft.
After sitting out the entire 2003-04 season because of his injuries, McGahee finally got his shot with the Bills. He rushed for over 1,000 yards his first two years there, but the Bills stank anyway. As the team got worse, and McGahee’s health declined in 2006, the BIlls decided to trade him for picks to the Ravens. At least McGahee would get his shot with a decent team, to show that he was still that excellent back.
In 2007, McGahee made his first Pro Bowl, after he rushed for another 1,000 yards. It looked like McGahee was back to being a top-5 running back. In 2008, injuries again took their toll, but like any great back he kept running forward. I remember his 77-yard run against the Cowboys on the final game at Cowboys Stadium. He didn’t rush for 1,000 yards, but he had a hell of a playoffs that year. He rushed for over 150 yards and 2 TDs and led the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game when this happened
Ryan Clark baptized McGahee towards the end of that game. I can joke about it now because even though McGahee was taken off the field in a stretcher, he did not suffer any serious injuries. But his heroic play in the playoffs did not translate into a starting job as Ray Rice took over the team the next season. McGahee just became the guy that stole fantasy touchdowns from Ray Rice from then on with the Ravens (he had 14 TDs in 2009 season).
The Ravens released McGahee this past offseason. But remember, a good back keeps his legs moving. He signed a decent contract for a running back his age (4 years, $9.5 mil, $3 mil guaranteed) with the Broncos, to back up Knowshon Moreno. It looked like his career would fade as the Broncos were headed to irrelevance at 1-4. But the team has turned it around and now they are in first-place in the AFC West. People credit their new starting QB, Tim Tebow. Others, the strong defensive play. A few credit the coach. But through it all it has been McGahee who just keeps moving forward with his 886 yards, 4.9 yards per attempt season. The Broncos voted him a captain this November when Kyle Orton left. His efforts have not been as heralded as other people, but that locker room knows that it’s the strength of McGahee that has powered the Broncos surge.
McGahee has never gotten the star treatment that he probably would have gotten if he stayed healthy on that January night in 2003. But through all the injuries and disrespect shown to him by the league, he just kept his legs moving, and at 30 years old, and almost 9 years after the Fiesta Bowl, McGahee is back to being a top-10 back in the league. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t the starter in Miami in 2002 and in Denver in 2011. Other thoughts going into this sports weekend.
- Wouldn’t this be a great weekend to have the quarterfinals of an 8-team college football playoffs? Now we get to wait for the New Mexico Bowl and the Idaho Potato Bowl next week
- The NBA = WWE. Dan Gilbert = The Kid that gets beat up for Lunch Money. David Stern =
Oy Vey. Here is the lineup this weekend. Unless you like patriotism and less than stellar college basketball spend time Saturday with your girl. Or find you a winter friend to take skiing or something. It’s not to late.
Saturday, December 10
12-3pm: Cincinnati vs Xavier (CBB on ESPN, 12:30pm), Washington vs Duke (CBB on CBS)
3:30-7pm: Army vs Navy (CBS, 2:30pm), Ohio State vs Kansas (ESPN, 3:15), Kentucky vs Indiana (ESPN, 5:15pm)
Sunday, December 11
1-4pm: New Orleans vs Tennessee, Houston vs Cincinnati, New England vs Washington
4-7pm: Oakland vs Green Bay, Chicago vs Denver, Buffalo vs San Diego