Heading into the 2013 NFL Draft, the University of Miami held a streak of 37 consecutive years of having a player selected.
The Hurricanes record of having players drafted and going on to find success in the NFL is as good or better than every college program in history. For most of that streak, Miami hasn’t had many close calls with players waiting little time to hear their names called in the first round and keeping the streak alive.
In 2009, there was a close call when only one Hurricane went in the draft (Spencer Adkins) and he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round.
This year, there wasn’t much doubt that the streak would continue but it would likely have to wait until day three for it to happen.
As it turned out, it was the Rams who ensured the streak would continue when, in the fifth round using the 149th overall pick, they selected Miami cornerback Brandon McGee.
In landing McGee, the Rams got a speedy, athletic corner with good size to eventually help out on defense and the versatility to contribute on special teams right away.
“He was a gunner and covered very well,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “(He’s got a) track background, but is a good football player, good size. He is 5’11, 192-93 pounds. He’s under 4.4 (40 time) and he’s got cover skills and understands the game.”
While McGee didn’t post any eye-popping statistics in his time at Miami, signs point to a size, athleticism, speed and skill package that is only now starting to be developed.
After losing fourth cornerback Bradley Fletcher to Philadelphia in free agency, the Rams entered the draft needing someone to help supplement the depth behind Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.
Considering the other, more pressing needs the Rams had entering the draft, they knew they’d likely have to find a corner later on in the draft and that’s exactly what they did with a little help from new defensive coordinator Tim Walton.
Walton spent four seasons at Miami where he coached the likes of future NFL defensive backs like Kelly Jennings and Kenny Phillips. While Walton never coached McGee or even had contact with him in the run up to the draft, there were a few connections Walton tapped into for more information on McGee.
Having worked out with Phillips in Coral Gables, McGee said he heard good things about his new defensive coordinator from Phillips.
“First of all, he’s a great coach,” McGee said. “He’s just a real players’ coach, smart guy as well, easy to talk to. Phillips told me he had a great relationship with Walton while he was there, so I’m looking forward to establishing the same.”
The connections to Miami didn’t end there as Fisher and general manager did their homework on McGee. Former Hurricanes linebacker Mike Barrow is a shared connection on the current Miami staff and offered congratulations on the pick soon after it was made, noting that McGee is a hard worker.
“We’re looking for him to having an opportunity to come in and fill in at the corner spot, the fourth corner spot,” Fisher said. “(He can) also pick up where ‘Fletch’ left off last year. He’s an outstanding special teams player.”
While McGee had a little bit of a wait to hear his name called, he did his best to remain calm as the rounds went by.
Remaining confident in his pre-draft showings, McGee had confidence that eventually he’d get an opportunity.
In January, McGee performed well at the East-West Shrine game in an all star game format that helped him get on the Rams’ radar a bit more. That came on the heels of a solid senior season in which McGee posted 54 tackles, two interceptions and seven passes defended.
When McGee went to the Scouting Combine in February, McGee had high hopes that his performance in the 40-yard dash would turn some heads. While he blazed through the 40-yard dash in a cornerback best 4.4 seconds, he was actually a bit disenchanted in his showing.
“It was, but I was actually kind of disappointed with the time,” McGee said. “I definitely wanted to run faster simply because I had been timed at 4.2’s all throughout college and all throughout training for the combine. I just didn’t have my best performance on that day. I’ll take a 4.3 but I was definitely shooting for a 4.2.”
In terms of intangibles, McGee brings his share to the table as well as he was also a team captain in 2012. That was an honor he took great pride in.
“It’s just a blessing to be in that position to be voted captain and to really be empowered by the coaching staff to lead the team in a sense,” McGee said. “I’m definitely looking to take the same leadership characteristics to St. Louis, go in and learn as much as I can, No. 1, and just compete.”
Now that he’s part of the Rams, McGee actually has other connections to the franchise that go beyond the coaching staff. He was high school rivals with fellow rookie class member Stedman Bailey when he played at Plantation (Fla.) High.
McGee also maintains a friendship with current Rams offensive lineman Brandon Washington. Coincidentally, it was Washington who first tipped off McGee to the fact that the Rams were looking to add him to this year’s draft haul.
“We spoke (last Friday night) through text message and the crazy thing he said was, ‘If we draft corner, we’re going to take you,’” McGee said. “I didn’t know how he knew that. I don’t know how he guessed that, but he guessed it right on the head.”
McGee will report to the Rams with the rest of his rookie brethren a week from Thursday and begin the process of getting acclimated to the Rams defense. That’s one area he has no worries about entering the NFL for he believes that is one of his greatest strengths.
“I think the football intelligence aspect of it, understanding the game, being able to learn the game, being able to draft a game plan, and also just being athletic,” McGee said. “Using my speed to my advantage, being able to adjust during the game, also being able to run with just about anybody, just about any receiver, being able to play inside in the slot position, I think those are really my biggest assets.”