April 9, 2009

McPhee in 'beast-mode' at MSU

The highest profile signee in the 2009 recruiting class is already making an impact on the Mississippi State defensive line.

Four-star recruit Pernell McPhee was the top-rated recruit in the MSU class but it was another group of Bulldogs that nearly got his signature. The 6-foot-3, 275-pounder was all set to sign with State until late pressure from his family to sign with Georgia caused him to wait a few extra days to make his final choice.

"It was a hard decision," McPhee said. "My family wanted me to go one way and my heart was telling me to go another way. I just stuck with my heart and went to Mississippi State. My family was telling me that I needed to go to Georgia but I felt like this was home right here at Mississippi State. I felt like I could come fit in and do everything right, stay positive and I won't have to adjust to new people. There is no doubt that I made the right decision."

The two sets of Bulldogs were not the only programs after the two-time junior college All-American. McPhee also had offers from Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Alabama, LSU, Kansas State, Illinois and West Virginia.

But McPhee's college career almost never happened. He did not qualify academically coming out of Pahokee (Fla.) High School where he was all-state in his only season of football. He registered 75 tackles, 35 tackles for loss, 19 sacks and 12 forced fumbles leading the Muckers to a 14-0 record and a Class 2B title. Following that season he signed with Southern Miss but appeared to be out of football after not meeting admissions standards.

But Itawamba Community College head coach Jeff Terrill gave him another opportunity to fulfill his dreams.

"The only thing I can say about that is God," McPhee said. "God made me end up at ICC. I didn't really pass the ACT and I was going to be done with football after high school. I only played there for a year. God just told me to go ahead and continue my dreams and He found this school out of nowhere at the last minute and I signed with Itawamba out of nowhere."

The relationship worked out for both parties. McPhee dominated at defensive end leading the country in sacks in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. He tallied 33 sacks at Itawamba with 19.5 sacks as a freshman and 13.5 as a sophomore. He also amassed 60.5 tackles for loss in his junior college career.

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