Thursday, March 25, 2010

Meet the REAL Willis McGahee

Baltimore Ravens News & Blogs by Tony Lombardi of

When Willis McGahee arrived on the scene in Baltimore, many fans were excited about the versatility that he might bring to the offensive backfield, something that was missing during the days of Jamal Lewis.

McGahee’s first season with the team in 2007 was a bitterly disappointing one that included a nine game losing streak, an embarrassing loss to what would eventually be a (1-15) Dolphins team and an equally embarrassing (5-11) final record.

McGahee was one of the few bright spots during a very forgettable swan song season for former head coach Brian Billick.

In 2008 the Ravens ushered in the John Harbaugh era and with it the promise of an energized squad less concerned with individual star power and more concerned about sacrificing for the good of the team.

New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron expressed his excitement over coaching McGahee and putting his talents to work in a way that might remind observers of how Cameron once used Ladainian Tomlinson in San Diego.

Unfortunately for McGahee and the Ravens, that never happened.

The talented former Miami Hurricane wasn’t an enthusiastic participant in the team’s offseason conditioning program in ’08 and his level of attendance during organized team activities could hardly be described as stellar. When he reported to training camp he was by his own admission not in the best of shape. Making matters worse, a knee injury prevented him from working his way back into shape.

The player that Cam Cameron wanted to feature was soon the featured attraction in Harbaugh’s doghouse.

Fans labeled him a malcontent and many demanded that he be traded or released.

I never really viewed McGahee as a malcontent in the mold of Chris McAlister. I saw him as misunderstood and I based that opinion on the things he said, the things he didn’t say, the manner in which he carried himself and what I believed to be somewhat of a shy demeanor – hardly your stereotypical persona from the “U.”

In 2009 my opinion of McGahee was validated. He reported to camp in great shape and became a champion of the concept of “team.” He absolutely played like a Raven and walked and talked the company line. He seemed fully rejuvenated and willingly mentored the young player who stole his job – Ray Rice.

Fans who clamored for his exodus only one year earlier now vehemently defend the club’s decision to keep McGahee around despite an uncapped season that would allow the team to sever ties with him without any real measurable financial consequence. His productivity in a supporting role coupled with what fans believed to be a new attitude influenced the 180 degree shift in the fan’s court of public opinion.

So what really inspired the turnaround for McGahee?

Did he really change or did the perception of McGahee change?

To find out whom the man behind the Darth Vader-like helmet really is I reached out to the Ravens talented back to satisfy my own curiosities about McGahee and those of fans here in Baltimore.

Here's the entire INTERVIEW

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A Former Cane said...

Great interview TL. Would like to have seen McGahee give you more in terms of the football questions but I sense he's just trying to keep everything positive and not dwell on the negative or step out of bounds at least publicly and I respect that.

Nice job on the interview per usual.

The NFL Player Whisperer said...

Interesting. The lack of response to this blog is a reflection of society today. If TL had written that McGahee was dogging behind the scenes and bad mouthing the team, there would be 25 responses to this blog.

But nooooooooooooo, since it's a good thing, believe look at it as hum-drum. What a shame.