By Scott Sudikoff
The cornerback position in football can be one of the toughest positions to master, but for Harvard senior Raishaun McGhee, his persistence, patience and passion for the game have led him to becoming an All-Ivy League performer.
McGhee, an economics concentrator, began his football journey in Windsor, Connecticut at the age of seven.
"The age limit [to start playing] was seven," said McGhee. "So I played soccer, but I knew football was what I wanted to play, tossing the ball around with my dad."
Cornerback was an immediate fit for McGhee, who began playing the position when he first started at 7-years-old. As he got older, he also found himself playing quarterback, helping him gain a unique perspective about his normal defensive back position.
"I have a sense of what the quarterback is seeing on the other side of the ball," explained McGhee. "That's definitely helped me mix up my techniques as a cornerback since I've been in that position behind center."
After living with his mother in Windsor, McGhee would move to New York to live with his father for high school and attend Rye Country Day School where his dad was the fitness director.
"It was a big change," said McGhee. "I didn't want to move because of all my friends [in Windsor], but my parents knew it was for the betterment of my academics."
While at Rye Country Day, McGhee continued to play both sides of the ball as a quarterback, running back and as a cornerback. McGhee credits a lot of his development as a player in high school to his dad, Ray, who played collegiately at Central Connecticut State.
"We'd sit down and break down film together," McGhee explained. "Putting in the extra work with him, going to the fitness center with him. He pushed me to be a better player and it definitely contributed to my skill set."
Although McGhee became a starter as a sophomore on the varsity level at Rye Country Day, there were some disadvantages he had while playing high school football in Westchester County, New York as compared to those from some major high school programs.
"Because football is not as big in Westchester, I didn't have an offseason training program or spring ball," said McGhee. "It forced me to be more responsible for helping myself get better on my own."
As mentioned, McGhee became a starter as just a sophomore bouncing around from quarterback, running back and his current-day position, cornerback. He became an all-league player in his sophomore year before growing into a captain as well as leading his team to an undefeated year as a junior, garnering him attention from the college ranks.
"I definitely had goals to play at the next level," said McGhee. "I didn't really expect Harvard or any Ivy League schools, but when they started reaching out, that's when I saw it was a possibility."
McGhee sent his film out to most of the Ivy League schools in the spring of his junior year, eventually hearing back from Cornell and Penn, but not Harvard. Before his senior season, an injury in the summer would partially sideline him.
"I tore my labrum in my hip," explained McGhee. "The plan was to have surgery after my senior season, and I wasn't going to go to many camps during the summer."
McGhee would picks two camps to attend during the summer while injured, and the first one he chose to attend was the only one he ended up needing.
"I chose Harvard's camp because they didn't respond to my film," said McGhee. "That was my first and only camp I ended up going to."
McGhee impressed the coaching staff so much on the first day of testing, that it made them go back and look up his film. Eventually after a meeting with head coach Tim Murphy, Harvard expressed its interest in adding McGhee to the Crimson family.
"After talking to the coaches, and with my parents, Harvard was definitely my top choice," said McGhee. "I knew how life-changing it would be for me and the rest of my family."
Luckily for both McGhee and Harvard, he was persistent in his pursuit of Harvard and did not give up when he did not receive an initial response. A trait he still carries with him to the field today.
"Raishaun is one of the really great kids and really great players in the Ivy League," said Coach Murphy. "On and off the field, he inspires by his relentless attitude to reach his full potential."
Like many young players at Harvard, McGhee wasn't expecting to see the field immediately, especially due to the plethora of great older talent in the secondary.
"Brian Owusu and Jaron Wilson helped me, but D.J. Monroe was probably who helped me the most," explained McGhee. "He taught me to go out there and not be intimidated and to play bigger than I am."
McGhee also has the benefit of lining up across from same great receivers at practice as well.
"Justice Shelton-Mosley and Adam Scott are both very quick, and if you don't get a piece of them on the line, they'll take off on you," said McGhee. "They've helped me in terms of my press technique as well as playing off-coverage trying to keep up with their speed."
What's the first key to playing the cornerback position?
"Patience," said McGhee. "You're typically fast if you're a cornerback, so there's no need to be fast out of your backpedal. Being patient with your feet and very detailed with your eyes."
McGhee and his teammates have been lucky to be part of such a strong Harvard program and they continue to add to the legacy.
"I think it's the passion and pride in the program from each player and coach that contributes to the success," explained McGhee. "There's a lot of competition on the field with the defense vs. the offense, but you have 100 other people who are your brothers."
McGhee has learned that the lessons taught from football can be applied to everyday life.
"Being passionate and love what you do has a significant impact on how well you perform," said McGhee. "That's in whatever you do. "You have a lot of passion for what you do in life."
Harvard hopes that passion and pride will continue to lead this football program to excellence.