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SMITH COLUMN: McPhee has several stops on way to NFL

January 16, 2013


There was a time when the sport of choice for Pernell McPhee was almost basketball.

One can bet that the Mississippi State Bulldogs are glad that McPhee chose football. Pahokee (Fla.) High School, Itawamba Community College and Baltimore Ravens can be pleased as well.

If it were not for McPhee's contributions, Pahokee might not have won the Florida State Class 2B championship in his only season of high school football.

Itawamba Community College and coach Jeff Terrill, who is now at Starkville Academy, wouldn't have had the services of a two-time junior college All-American if McPhee hadn't decided to play football.

If McPhee had elected to bounce the basketball rather than chase quarterbacks, the Ravens might not be in a position to play for a spot in the Super Bowl.

McPhee is a good example of someone who can make several stops during a football career and ultimately end up in the National Football League.

McPhee is part of a pretty good Baltimore defense, led by future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, that plays against the New England Patriots Sunday in the AFC Championship Game for the second-straight year.

After playing one year of high school football and two years of junior college, McPhee came to MSU where defensive line coach David Turner was waiting on him.

The Bulldogs may have had a tougher time having success during the 2010 season and reaching the 2011 Gator Bowl if it had not been for the presence of McPhee on the defensive line.

Turner, who recently returned to MSU as defensive line coach, is not surprised that McPhee has enjoyed success at the highest level.

"The thing that impressed me was Pernell's attitude," Turner said. "He was a tremendous worker and that's what we look for. He was coachable and was a team player.

"Most players come in and they have their own agenda, but he had no agenda. He just wanted to work hard. I knew his best football is in front of him."

McPhee was All-State in high school, was All-State and All-Region 23 to go along with his All-American status in junior college and was a two-time All-Southeastern Conference selection with the Bulldogs.

With his 6-foot-4 and almost 300-pound frame, there's no doubt that McPhee could have become a pretty intimidating force on the basketball court, but after seeing his work on the football field, there's no denying that he's playing the right sport.

It would be nice to see McPhee get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, but MSU will be represented in the game no matter which two teams win on Sunday.

Mississippi State is one of only eight schools guaranteed to have a former player win a Super Bowl ring this year.

Not only is there McPhee in Baltimore, but Anthony Dixon, the all-time leading rusher in Bulldog history, plays for the San Francisco 49ers. Kyle Love of the New England Patriots is attempting to make the big game for the second-straight year and Charles Mitchell is on the roster of the Atlanta Falcons.

Dan Mullen will probably have no trouble finding an interest in the Super Bowl this year as all of those players were on the roster in his first few years as MSU's coach.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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