Curtis McGee, a former auto detailer and foreman of a construction business that his father owned, said his son never complains if the coaches yell at him. “He doesn’t feel like they pick on him. He likes them very much. He always says, ‘I need to go in the film room and see what I can do better.’
“His dream is to play on Sundays in the NFL. Brandon is very humble, but he knows what he wants in life.”
The Hurricanes need him. McGee, 6-0 and 197 pounds, entered UM in 2009 rated the nation’s 10th-best corner by rivals.com. He also played quarterback as a junior at Plantation, throwing for 1,100 yards with 13 touchdowns in seven games — and using his 4.29-second speed in the 40-yard dash to help him rush for another 450 yards. But he has only one career interception at UM (along with 55 tackles), and has been viewed as an underachiever. He constantly is challenged by UM coach Al Golden, who wants McGee to turn his talent into production on game days.
Last year, Boston College defeated UM 24-17 in the season finale, and the Hurricanes secondary was continually beaten by tight end Chris Pantale, who had four catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Pantale, on the John Mackey Award preseason watch list, broke his foot in training camp and is out for Saturday’s game.
McGee had a broken hand in last year’s finale, which he sustained the week before at USF. He is healthy now and eager to embrace whatever role he is given.
“Brandon McGee has separated himself from the rest,” Golden said Tuesday. “He’s doing very well.”
Howard, described as “feisty” and “aggressive” by Golden, is now listed as a backup to junior Ladarius Gunter, the other starting corner. Golden said Howard “needs to keep his hands in check,” but that coaches are “working on that.”
Howard told The Miami Herald early in the summer he intends “to push Brandon McGee so hard” that “by knowing he has someone on his tail,” McGee will end up drafted in the first round next year.
McGee’s older teammates say he has stepped up to the challenge.
“He’s a very resilient kid, and very determined,” safety A.J. Highsmith said. “He looks like a senior. He’s confident, he has exceptional speed and his technique and footwork are superb.”
Said safety Vaughn Telemaque: “Brandon’s a cool kid. He would never disrespect anyone. If coaches ask him to do something, he does the extra.”
Tailback Mike James, who lost his mother in a car accident nearly two years ago, is close with McGee. “He’s playing faster, he’s playing stronger and I’ve really been impressed,” James said. “He’s happy where he is now in life, but he’s still trying to do everything he can to get better.”
McGee was asked during the Atlantic Coast Conference media days how someone could play angry without letting it turn into negative energy.
“You let it fill you,” he said. “You turn it into positive energy. With the guys we have on this team it’s just a band of brothers. We handle adversity like men and keep moving forward.
“I never feel victimized. The things I’ve gone through have made me who I am today.”