(Citynet Statewide Sportsline interview with Curtis McGhee)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Wheeling Central Catholic claimed their third consecutive Class A state football championship in December and Curtis McGhee was once again a big reason for the Maroon Knights’ success. Although McGhee’s season was ended after just eight games due to an ACL tear, the senior signal caller adopted a new role as an extra coach on the sideline.
“I was trying to keep in Jacob (Rine)’s ear on the sideline. I was just trying to give him the things that he can’t see out there because you are so focused. But I could see different things from the sidelines. Coach (Jason) Rine down at Tolsia (in the first round), I told him about a certain area that would be open and we ended up winning the game on it.
“Obviously I don’t want to be a coach on the sideline as a senior in high school but it is what I had to do to stay involved in the game.”
As a safety, McGhee has the opportunity to survey the entire field as the last line of defense. He said a view of Central’s offense from the sideline offered a similar perspective.
“You definitely see the field much more than you would if you were out there. Sometimes when you are out there, you make a predetermined read before the snap, so you know where the ball is going. But then as I sat there and watched Hudl, knowing I wasn’t going to play in the game and scouting the other team, you truly see their true weaknesses and where the holes are going to be.”
McGhee’s knee surgery was conducted by Dr. James Bradley in Pittsburgh. He is the Head Team Orthopedic Surgeon of the Pittsburgh Steelers. McGhee’s rehab process is nearly complete after some stops and starts due to the pandemic. He expects full clearance within a month.
“With corona, I ended up going to three different places for physical therapy. But I feel good now. It is just part of the process.
“It was definitely mentally the toughest thing I ever went through. I was just trying to tell myself that everything happens for a reason. I was actually lucky that I committed and I signed my early decision before I got hurt. So I knew I was still going to Brown.”
McGhee now has his sights set on Brown University, an Ivy League school in Providence, Rhode Island. He expects to major in business and possibly pursue a career in sports management. Brown’s preseason camp is slated to open on August 20.
“Ever since I was a kid, my goal was to go Division I like my dad. Growing up you always had a dream of going to the huge, huge schools like Alabama, Miami, Pittsburgh and all that. But once you realize you are in West Virginia, you don’t get recruited that much. It kind of got scaled back a bit but you still shoot for the stars.
“I went up to Brown in July. I performed well at their camp and they offered me. I committed as soon as I got home.”
At the next level, McGhee will play safety. He had 39 tackles and a pair of interceptions in his shortened senior season.
“It is nice scoring touchdowns and everything but being able to hit people is probably what I do best.”
McGhee’s father, Curtis, played at the University of Pittsburgh from 1994-1997 and was a team captain for the Panthers in his senior season. He is now an assistant coach at West Liberty University.
“He just keeps telling me that you have to go get it because in high school there are only a few superstars. Once you get to college especially at the D1 level, everybody did the same exact things as you. So they don’t care that you won three state championships or player of the year or anything like that. You just have to go get it everyday. There are going to be ten dudes fighting for the exact same spot that are pretty much the same caliber player.”
McGhee was part of an impressive senior class at Central but he is confident a younger group of Maroon Knights can make a push for the school’s thirteenth state championship this fall.
“I just worked out with them the other day and they are working hard. They are kind of inexperienced coming back but they are always ready. Coach (Mike) Young and all the coaches will get them ready.
“Jordan Waterhouse had a good year last year when I went out. He is coming back at running back. Payton Marling has been a solid enforcer on our defense for the last two years. Vinnie High is going to shock a ton of people in Class A this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the best linebacker in Class A next year, honestly.”
In his sophomore and senior seasons, McGhee led teams that entered the postseason as the No. 10 seed to state titles. He says the 2017 run to the championship stands out over all his other high school memories.
“My sophomore year, the state championship against St. Marys, we started the year 0-2 and then 3-4. Once we got to the playoffs, everyone predicted us to lose to South Harrison and even going into the St. Marys game, we were kind of the underdogs. Going out there and winning by twenty points and finally experiencing the first championship was something I will never forget.”