"He was thin. He was about 6-3, but you just couldn't block him," Thompson said. "We would play him in a three down-linemen formation and as a stand-up outside linebacker, and he just couldn't be blocked. He was too quick."
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McPhee was the emotional leader of the Indians. Former teammate Khiry Karriem, who plays for Georgia State, said McPhee would mirror Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis in leading the pre-game chants, and coach Jon Williams called McPhee the "consummate team player."
"He was always lifting others up and never putting them down," Williams said. "In my opinion, there was not a whole lot of counseling that had to be done in terms of getting him to buy into the program. He's just a competitor, and I firmly believe that he could've played a few sports and been successful at them because he is a competitor."
Karriem said defensive teammates were awed by McPhee's speed and hands and often tried to emulate him. But his generosity was just as significant.
"He had a big heart," Karriem said. "He didn't have much, but whenever he did have something, he shared it with us. I really respected Pernell for that. … He paid your way for things, he would bring you food. He looked out for the next person before he looked out for himself."
McPhee's production, however, dropped off at Mississippi State, and a few reports suggested that the defensive staff's decision to use him as a stand-up pass rusher instead of his usual hands-in-the-dirt stance was a factor.
McPhee didn't buy that justification.
"That's an excuse," he said matter-of-factly. "I just didn't perform to the level that I was supposed to perform at."
Williams, McPhee's coach at Itawamba, dismissed the numbers. "Every player, regardless of level, can be critiqued to the point of being very critical," Williams said. "The thing I can tell you about Pernell is that in spite of the things that one might think is wrong with a player, there's 10 things that he does right. The intangibles he brings to a team far outweigh the critiques that one may have of him."
Getting drafted by the Ravens was more of a shock for McPhee, who said he was unaware he was on the team's radar.
"It was crazy because I never talked to them," he said. "[Wide receiver] Anquan Boldin comes from Pahokee, and he went to the same high school that I went to. So I'm going to be around a lot of veteran guys and some of the best guys at their positions. I'm going to have a lot to learn from them. I'm going to learn from them and try to be successful."
McPhee, who categorized his strengths as his physical play and desire to learn, said he intends to work on his footwork and his vision.
McPhee said his goal is to enter training camp and absorb everything his coaches and teammates dispense. "I want to learn and prepare as fast as I can," he said. "I'm going to try to get in their back pockets and make them teach me a lot of things."
To commemorate the Ravens' 15 years of existence, Jamison Hensley selects the best players in team history at each position. PG 6