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Football Recruiting Report
Monday, December 23, 2013

By Sammy Batten

McGhin family pedigree goes on

Pirates tap Tallahassee for O-lineman

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By Sammy Batten
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Garrett McGhin thought of himself as a baseball player first when he reached the ninth grade at Florida State University School in Tallahassee, FL. But that all changed once McGhin stepped on the football field a year later.

"I wanted to be one of the handful of kids who make the varsity baseball team as a freshman, which I did,'' McGhin said. "So didn't play football my first year in high school. By by the end of my freshman year the football coaches kept telling me, 'Come on out.'

"So my tenth-grade year I came out and I was kind of rusty at it. But I was big enough and kind of strong, and just bullied people around basically.''

McGhin quickly mastered the techniques of blocking well enough to attract the attention of major college football recruiters, including East Carolina. The Pirates eventually landed a verbal commitment from the 6-foot-6-1/2, 285-pounder on December 5, making him the fifth offensive line prospect to join the recruiting Class of 2014.

The pledge by Garrett continues a McGhin family tradition of producing college football players. His father, Patrick, was a defensive end-outside linebacker at Appalachian State and cousin John McGhin played offensive line at South Florida.

Those influences, and his large size made it natural for Garrett to become involved with football at a young age.

"You could say I have an athletic family,'' McGhin said. "Even my mom played soccer, so I started playing football as a little kid at around 10 or 11. I remember playing Pop Warner ball, but back then there was a weight limit ... I was really fat when I was younger. So when I was like 10 or 11, I had to play with the older 13-year-old kids.''

Florida State University School is sponsored by Florida State University and is attended by approximately 1,700 students ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade. McGhin has attended FSUS since elementary school and actually played quarterback for the middle school football team.

It was there that FSUS varsity football coach Jarrod Hickman began to notice McGhin's potential.

"He's been here a long time, but in elementary school you didn't know if he was just a big kid,'' Hickman said. "Once he started playing at the middle school you could start to see he was a little more than just some big kid. And he had a good work ethic, so we felt like he'd do what it took to develop into a good player.''

Baseball delayed McGhin's arrival on FSUS's varsity football team. A right-handed hitting corner infielder, he made the FSUS varsity baseball team as a freshman, then developed into a true star on the diamond as a sophomore when he hit .391 with three home runs and 26 RBIs to earn All-Big Bend honors from the Tallahassee Democrat. Those averages dipped to .262-1-10 as a junior, but McGhin is expecting a breakout senior season.

Hickman immediately made McGhin a two-way starter when he joined the football team as a sophomore. "We only had about 20-some people on the team, so I had to play both sides of the ball,'' McGhin joked.

As he gained experience, McGhin began to realize that football, not baseball, may be his ticket to a college athletic career when his cousin John pointed out he had the frame to make it.

"My cousin was a pretty good player and he was telling me, 'Hey, you're 6-4 as a junior and you're still growing. You've got a chance if you work at it,''' McGhin said. "At first, I didn't believe him because we had senior players that were being recruited and that made me think I couldn't get to college if I wasn't a 300-pound offensive lineman. But then the coaches started telling me the same thing near the end of my junior year, too. So I started to think, 'Hey, maybe I can do this.' ''

Further reinforcement for McGhin came last spring when college recruiters began dropping by the FSUS campus. ECU's new defensive coordinator Rick Smith, who is a graduate of Florida State University, was among those taking an interest in McGhin.

Eventually, scholarship offers came in from Appalachian State, East Carolina, Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee State, UAB and South Alabama. By the end of July, McGhin decided to accept the offer from South Alabama.

But even though he'd committed to South Alabama, McGhin continued to consider other offers as he produced his best year yet at FSUS as a senior.

"We had gotten off to an 0-3 start and we weren't playing as good as I thought we were,'' Hickman said. "Then, in our fourth game of the year against Leon, Garrett really had a great game. He graded out at over 90 percent on his blocking assignments and had six or seven pancake blocks. He ate up his guy all night long.''

Smith and the Pirates kept up their attention and eventually convinced McGhin to come to Greenville for an official visit on November 9 to watch ECU face Tulsa in a Conference USA game. The trip caused McGhin to reconsider his commitment to South Alabama, and after speaking to his family upon the return home, he decided to sail with the Pirates instead.

"There were multiple factors to it,'' McGhin said. "The two main ones I'd say were the atmosphere and the coaching staff. They have a great stadium, a great fan base and the game-time atmosphere was amazing.

"The coaches were all great. I love (head) Coach (Ruffin) McNeill and (offensive line) Coach Brandon Jones. They are great guys and I could really see myself playing there for four or five years.''

McGhin is expecting to play offensive tackle at ECU.

"My strengths are my quickness and I'm very athletic,'' he said.

Baseball remains part of McGhin's future plans and he's spoke to McNeill and ECU baseball coach Billy Godwin about joining the Pirates in that sport at some point.

"I'm definitely thinking about playing baseball in college,'' he said. "I play first base, so if I get bigger and stronger for football, I'd still be able to play first base.

"When I came up for my official visit I talked to the head (baseball) coach and he liked my size. Coach McNeill also talked to me about being able to play both at East Carolina.''

For now, McGhin has football on his mind and he might even drop in to watch the Pirates play Ohio University in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday.

"I'm going to make an attempt to get there,'' he said. "But if I don't, I'll be heading up there (to Greenville) this summer.''

E-mail Sammy Batten

PAGE UPDATED 12/22/13 10:23 AM.

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