Howard Football Back on Track with Fresh-Faced Freshman

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There was a game last year in the midst of a 1-10 disastrous campaign that former Howard Bison head football coach Carey Bailey did the unthinkable: he rotated all three quarterbacks on his roster in a single game. The move spelled panic, it spelled frustration and it spelled desperation for a team that has struggled to find just one signal caller since the graduation of former Howard great Ted White in 1999.

When Bailey was fired at the end of the season last year, new coach Gary Harrell knew one of his first jobs as the team overseer was to find the school a Division I caliber starting quarterback.

As a former Bison receiver, Harrell knew the importance of a strong triggerman but he got more than what he bargained for when Greg McGhee, a 6-foot-3-inch quarterback from Pittsburgh, Pa., came aboard.

The Bison are only 1-1 to start the season but in perhaps their biggest win in years, it was McGhee who led the way. Against Morehouse on Sept. 10 at RFK Stadium in the inaugural AT&T Nation’s Kickoff Classic, McGhee paved the way with a game-high 248 passing yards and three touchdown passes in a 30-27 win.

But oddly enough, it wasn’t McGhee’s performance in a victory that convinced Harrell of his promise. Instead, it was the quarterback’s moxie in a 41-9 opening defeat to Eastern Michigan that made his head coach a believer.

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“When we saw Greg in high school we felt like he was an outstanding quarterback but we didn’t think we had a shot to get him,” Harrell said immediately after the victory over Morehouse. “Luckily, he’s on our campus. You’re talking about a kid, true freshman out of high school, that came out in the first game against a Division I school, stood in the pocket and showed composure. We have another Ted White that’s wearing No. 7. Anytime you have a quarterback of that magnitude, we believe that our future is bright.”

Looking at McGhee slice and dice Morehouse’s secondary in the Bison’s last game, you would have to believe that Howard’s future is indeed bright. McGee, the Nation’s Kickoff Classic’s MVP, started off slow before leading Howard to 20 second-half points. For onlookers watching closely at how McGee, who wears White’s old No. 7 jersey, carefully completed 22 of his 29 passes along with adding 46 rushing yards, they may have thought it was White revitalized and reenrolled as a Bison. It was an impressive performance from McGhee, who became the first player to win the inaugural Classic’s MVP trophy.

“It means a lot,” McGhee said about being recognized as the game’s MVP. “It means I came out here and did my job. Our offensive coordinator, coach Ted White, told us we did well.”

It’s ironic how the one player McGhee is being compared to is now his primary mentor and instructor. McGhee’s arrival at Howard has been much talked about but it’s his progression and his potential for greatness that appears to have his coaches and campus buzzing.

“I was at home in the summer when they told me we had a freshman quarterback who could throw 80 yards,” says Bison junior linebacker Keith Pough. “When I came to camp and I saw how he carried himself [and] how he showed composure for a freshman quarterback, I knew he was going to be special. It’s not a coincidence that he wears No. 7. I think he’s going to break all of Ted White’s records and that’s what I believe.”