It is arguably 1 of the finest traditions successful assemblage football. Before each game, the coaches, players and enactment unit for North Carolina A&T, an FCS programme successful the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, get disconnected the autobus and locomotion a fewer steps to a statue titled “February One.”
On Fridays earlier leaving for a roadworthy travel oregon Saturdays earlier continuing connected to the stadium, the Aggies interaction the feet of the 4 men — Franklin McCain Sr., Ezell Blair Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Joseph McNeil and David Richmond — who staged a sit-in astatine a segregated Woolworth’s successful Greensboro successful 1960.
The infinitesimal was ever and uniquely peculiar to Broncos rookie cornerback Mac McCain III, who is McCain Sr.’s grandson.
“It says they arsenic athletes, but much importantly, arsenic students of North Carolina A&T, recognize the greatness that originated connected that campus,” said Frank McCain, Franklin’s lad and Mac’s father, successful a telephone interview. “That determination is simply a statue they tin spell and wage homage to those 4 brave men and 1 happens to beryllium his grandfather, it’s singular and serves arsenic inspiration to not lone him, but astir apt the different players.
“If those boys walked down to the Woolworth’s and they tin alteration the world, these young men connected the shot squad tin alteration the satellite arsenic well.”
The Broncos’ players who volition commencement grooming campy practices connected Wednesday greeting travel from each parts of the country, each level of assemblage shot and person myriad household backgrounds. But it’s harmless to accidental McCain is the lone 1 who tin accidental his gramps is simply a civic rights icon and the taxable of an on-campus statue.
“And a luncheon antagonistic successful the Smithsonian,” Frank McCain said.
“And a dorm named aft his gramps that Mac lived in,” added North Carolina A&T antiaircraft backs manager Thomas Howard.
Mac made his ain people astatine A&T, besides the alma mater of his parents. McCain, 23, started each 29 games for A&T from 2017-19, totaling 113 tackles, 8 interceptions and 22 walk break-ups. He igned with the Broncos arsenic an undrafted escaped agent. McCain Sr. passed distant successful January 2014, but Mac said grandpa is inactive keeping tabs connected him.
“He loved shot truthful we would ticker a batch of games connected TV,” Mac said. “I cognize he’s blessed and excited up successful eden that I’m successful the NFL.”
“Follow your gut”
Franklin McCain was 19 erstwhile helium and 3 friends, aboriginal called “The Greensboro Four,” walked into the Woolworth’s connected Feb. 1, 1960. They sat down astatine the portion of the luncheon antagonistic reserved for achromatic customers. Refused service, they staged a sit-in to basal up against favoritism successful restaurants and stores successful the south.
“It’s impressive, particularly being a freshman and you’re truly conscionable trying to enactment your mode astir campus,” Mac said. “For them to beryllium 4 freshman and taking a stance and pb a radical of radical to beryllium successful … unbelievable.”
Unbelievable courageousness and unbelievable results. The sit-in started a question crossed campuses successful the southbound and connected July 25, 1960, Woolworth’s integrated its luncheon counters.
“If determination is thing that you privation to bash and successful your heart, you cognize it needs to beryllium changed, modified oregon turned upside down, spell up and bash it,” McCain Sr. said successful a video interrogation with the Smithsonian successful 2013. “Don’t travel your head. Don’t travel your heart. Follow your gut. But don’t hold for anybody.”
There are exhibits honoring “The Greensboro Four” successful Washington (Smithsonian), Greensboro (International Civil Rights Center & Museum) and Atlanta (National Center for Civil and Human Rights). In Washington, a conception of the existent luncheon antagonistic is portion of the display. The on-campus statue was unveiled successful 2002.
Mac McCain said helium was “probably successful the archetypal grade,” erstwhile helium began gaining cognition of his grandfather’s bravery and impact.
“We started talking astir it successful schoolhouse and I started to spot him successful textbooks,” Mac said.
McCain Sr., who was a chemist successful Charlotte for astir 4 decades aft graduating from A&T, passed distant astatine property 73 erstwhile Mac was a period shy of his 16th birthday.
“They were much similar friends than gramps and grandson,” Frank McCain said. “He appreciated that Mac carried his sanction into a 3rd generation. But my begetter ne'er truly got to spot immoderate of his collegiate achievements oregon the exceptional jock helium has become.”
Starting successful his inferior twelvemonth astatine Dudley High School successful Greensboro, Mac’s diversion vocation took off.
Returning from ACL injury
McCain played younker football, but started his precocious schoolhouse years focusing connected hoops (point guard) and way (sprints/relays). He returned to shot arsenic a inferior and was noticed by a North Carolina A&T adjunct coach, who asked him to be the program’s camp. A&T was McCain’s lone afloat assistance offer. Because helium was semi-new to playing cornerback, McCain redshirted successful 2016.
“The concern we were successful astatine the time, we didn’t request him to travel successful and play truthful we fto him work, develop, get amended and larn the craft,” Howard said. “He enactment successful the enactment — a batch of other hours (training) and 1-on-1 meetings with Coach (Al) Washington to larn the position.”
McCain entered A&T’s starting lineup successful ’17 and instantly shined. He sealed a triumph astatine FBS Charlotte erstwhile helium jumped a way to the bound and returned the interception 74 yards for a touchdown. The adjacent season, helium returned an interception 109 yards for a touchdown successful a triumph implicit East Carolina.
McCain was cruising on successful ’18 — helium would beryllium named first-team All-MEAC for the 2nd consecutive twelvemonth — until helium sustained a non-contact torn ACL. McCain said helium played astatine 75% successful 2019, but helium inactive had six walk break-ups and 26 tackles successful 9 games.
“There were small things I had to do,” helium said of compensating for his health. “I had to ticker adjacent much film, I had to modulation (in coverage) a small earlier and accommodate to the caller mode I had to play.”
Said Howard: “Quarterbacks were inactive disquieted astir throwing implicit his way.”
McCain entered the 2020 offseason with a wide goal: Play good capable to get drafted.
North Carolina A&T conducted respective practices successful the fall, but did not play a crippled due to the fact that of the coronavirus pandemic. McCain focused connected his classes and training.
“Football is what I emotion to bash and erstwhile you emotion it, it’s a hobby truthful it wasn’t hard to spell retired and enactment successful the enactment by myself,” helium said.
No season. No all-star games. No Combine. No pre-draft workouts. McCain participated successful North Carolina State’s Pro Day successful March and ran the 40-yard dash successful 4.45 seconds.
If A&T had played past fall, McCain said: “For sure, I would person been drafted. I truly needed that past twelvemonth to up my banal and amusement the scouts that I was afloat healthy.”
McCain could person returned to A&T for a sixth year, but having earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees successful agriculture business, helium declared for the draft. Even without a season, the McCains were optimistic erstwhile the draught started that Mac would beryllium selected determination successful rounds 4-7. Sixteen antiaircraft backs went successful the last 2 rounds, including Kary Vincent to the Broncos. None was McCain.
“As soon arsenic the draught was over, the telephone started blowing up from each these teams that were funny successful him arsenic a escaped agent,” Frank McCain said. “It was trying to fig out, successful a existent expeditious way, wherever the champion spot would beryllium for him. Denver had not been a programme we had talked to anterior to that day.”
Mac based his determination to motion with the Broncos connected the franchise’s occurrence with undrafted escaped agents and manager Vic Fangio calling to present a recruiting pitch.
Representing HBCU programs
McCain knows the task astatine hand. The Broncos loaded up cornerbacks via escaped agents Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller and first-round prime Pat Surtain II. Bryce Callahan, Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey circular retired the projected apical six. But arsenic past twelvemonth exhibited, erstwhile the Broncos ran retired of cornerbacks, processing McCain connected the signifier squad is sensible.
“Those (veterans) pb by enactment and I ticker those guys intimately successful practice,” helium said. “They’re large NFL corners truthful I effort and hone successful connected them and beryllium a sponge.”
McCain volition transportation his grandfather’s name/memory/legacy with him, but a secondary nonsubjective is helping rise the illustration of Historically Black College and University programs. No HBCU players were drafted this twelvemonth and McCain is the lone alum connected the Broncos.
“I privation to amusement we should get much of a accidental successful the NFL,” helium said. “There aren’t a batch of america (on rosters) and a batch much players should person gotten a accidental and were bully capable to play successful the NFL, but weren’t seen enough. I privation to beryllium the feline who tin alteration that.”