Grid’s Miami Surge Sign NFL Veteran Willis McGahee

MIAMI – At least one athlete was signed at the National Pro Grid League (NPGL) Pro Day hosted by the Miami Surge, someone quite familiar with what it means to be a professional athlete.

Willis McGahee, who comes to Grid with well-established credentials as a pro athlete in the NFL, signed with the Surge on Sunday, one of eight teams in the NPGL.

Grid, in its second season and with a renewed contract with NBC Sports, is the world’s first professional spectator sport with two co-ed teams racing head-to-head in a two-hour match. It incorporates speed, skill and strategy in a test of endurance through a variety of weightlifting and body-weight elements.

The Surge hosted the fourth of six Pro Days across the country. Scouts and coaches from all eight NPGL teams attend each Pro Day looking for talent to fill out their rosters. And McGahee is now coming home to Miami.

When asked if he’s ready to be a Grid player, McGahee said: “That’s the whole game plan, yes sir.”

Once he sets his mind to playing a sport, McGahee can be dynamic.

He led the University of Miami to a national championship in the 2001-2002 season, he was a first-round NFL draft pick in 2003 and he went on to the Pro Bowl twice (2007, 2011).

A 6-0, 235-pound running back, McGahee said he has yet to retire from the NFL — he is a free agent and wants to play one or two more years.

While football is winding down for McGahee at age 33, he is but a rookie on the way up in Grid. He competed in Grid’s Los Angeles Pro Day recently before injuring his fingertips on the rope climb.

McGahee was asked if some sports fans would be surprised that a highly successful star from the well-established NFL would make the leap to the young Grid League.

“They can be shocked all they want,” said McGahee, also professing his love for the intense training required to be a good Grid athlete. “Why not get paid [to do this,] and why not do it with the Miami Surge, where I’m from?”

Surge team operator Mather Wiswall said he’s “excited” to have McGahee on his squad.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Wiswall said. “[McGahee] is extremely talented — raw talent in terms of the Grid. But he is super strong and athletic. And there’s nobody better in molding raw talent than [Surge Coach] Doug Chapman.”

McGahee spent much of Sunday trying to learn from athletes who are more experienced in Grid.

“I’m amazed at how everyone is doing toes-to-bar, butterfly pull-ups…,” McGahee said. “They have heart and desire. That [level] is where I want to get.”

Surge powerhouse player Nick Urankar, who was one of several Miami teammates at CrossFit Fortress during the Pro Day on Sunday, said he and the others are more than willing to help McGahee adjust.

How long that adjustment takes, however, is unknown.

“It’s tough (to know) without working with him and seeing him [in the gym], but he’s got a lot of power,” Urankar said. “It takes some time [to adjust]. It could be a couple of months and then we get huge results, and we move him where we need him. Or it could be shorter or longer. But for sure with him being from down here, it’s huge to help build our fan base.”

Another adjustment for McGahee will be the novelty of having female teammates — which is not something he is used to in the NFL.

McGahee, though, said teammates are teammates, no matter the gender, and he was looking forward to getting started.

One of his new teammates is Jenn Jones, who said McGahee will be a big draw for fans outside the fitness community.

“I think it will be amazing for the League and for our team to sell tickets and to hype up our fan base,” Jones said. “Plus, he’s super, super strong.

“I’m excited to have Doug [Chapman] work with him and get our athletes around him to see what he is capable of on the grid. I think most of his adjustment will be technical — how to move most efficiently for this sport. But he’s an athlete. He will pick things up quickly. We just need to give him the exposure.”

Beyond the Surge, Jones said it’s exciting that Grid is pulling athletes from a variety of platforms, including football, Olympic weightlifting and Cirque du Soleil, to name just three.

“The more outside athletes we can pull in,” Jones said, “the bigger Grid is going to get. And it gives athletes who can’t play their sport anymore this other competitive outlet.”

McGahee said his technique will need to be sharpened.

“I got it, but it’s not there fully,” he said. “I don’t expect to come in and be the go-to guy. It’s like football — you have to earn your spot.”

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