Florida International U

Graduate transfers helping FIU football at tight end


Pharoah McKever has a name that conjures up images of the First Dynasty of Ancient Egypt.

McKever, one of the most-imposing football players on FIU’s roster at 6-6 and 260 pounds, has been dominant in his own way this fall, laying claim to the starting job at tight end.

“He’s a beast,” said A.J. Sattinger, a 6-2, 225-pound FIU tight end who — like McKever — is a graduate transfer working on a master’s degree. “He’s a good blocker, a good route-runner. “I think the cat can dunk without jumping. Hopefully, he’ll play tight end, and I’ll play H-back. We can use some two tight-end stuff. It would be fun.”

Coach Butch Davis, in his first year at FIU, seems to have done an outstanding job of replacing tight end Jonnu Smith, who was drafted in the third round by the Tennessee Titans this past April.

Smith, a 6-3, 250-pounder, caught 42 passes and scored four touchdowns last year.

McKever, who’s in just his third season as a tight end, has the potential to be just as good.

Raised in Tabor City, North Carolina, McKever was 6-6 and 210 pounds in high school, playing quarterback and safety.

He signed with North Carolina State as a wide receiver but never played that position there. He redshirted his first year, switched to defensive end and was finally moved to tight end, playing mostly as a backup.

Among his big plays at N.C. State were a blocked punt and two 82-yard touchdowns, one on an interception and one on a reception.

McKever graduated from N.C. State with a degree in social work and transferred to FIU, in part because of Davis’ reputation of developing tight ends, such as Jeremy Shockey and Bubba Franks with the Miami Hurricanes, and Eric Ebron at North Carolina.

Since arriving at FIU in June, McKever has made an impression as perhaps the most-dynamic talent on the roster. He’s been seen spinning away from tacklers, showing nimbleness for a man his size.

“He’s a great target,” FIU quarterback Alex McGough said. “I wouldn’t say a drop-off [from Smith] but a change. [Smith] is quicker, faster. Pharoah is bigger — a box-out type of receiver.”

Davis joked that McKever has a “12-foot wing span”.

In actuality, it’s seven feet, said McKever, which is plenty impressive.

McKever said he can still throw. He recently had a friendly throwing competition against FIU backup quarterback Maurice Alexander. McKever said he chucked the ball 70 yards … but Alexander beat him by five yards.

At 23, McKever is older than Smith, who turns 22 on August 22.

Sattinger, who turns 23 in November, caught eight passes for 91 yards last season in 12 games at Coastal Carolina, including seven starts.

A native of Clearwater, Sattinger committed to Temple University out of high school but backed out after the Owls head coach left for Boston College.

Sattinger left Coastal Carolina after he was told the offense was changing to triple-option.

This fall, on FIU’s first day in full pads, he had more bad luck, sustaining an injury. But he said he will be back “full go” on Monday.

“I had a bunch of time this spring, so, mentally, I know the offense real well,” Sattinger said. “But you’ve got to get physical reps out there. I’ve been trying to run extra routes after practice, staying in shape so I’ll be ready to go.”