Pharoah McKever deftly took the pass in. He rumbled forward and evaded potential tacklers. When he was done 82 yards later, the complexion of the game and the season had changed.
That was an interception return, the eighth-longest in NC State history, and it helped the Wolfpack pull out a vital victory at Syracuse in 2014 to spur a late-season run towards the postseason. Now McKever is in a new position and he hopes reaching the end zone will become a habit.
As NC State preps for its second straight bowl, the Tabor City North Carolina native is also preparing for a move back to offense. McKever is now listed as a tight end on the team’s roster and it marks a return to offense for the player who redshirted as a wide receiver in 2013 after playing quarterback and safety in high school.
Needless to say, McKever has seen extensive time on both sides of the ball, but he was not getting much action at all this season. That lead to NC State head coach Dave Doeren approaching him with an idea prior to the end of the regular season.
“Coach Doeren called me and said ‘Hey, I want to put something in your ear,’ and we talked about it,” McKever said. ‘He said he would give me the time to think on it and pray on it. He called me the next morning, and I told him I was happy to accept the change. He said he felt like it could be a big, key move for me."
“Coach Canada said, ‘Welcome back home.’" added McKever. "It feels good to be back home.”
With no games under his belt at tight end or on offense as a college player, McKever only has practice as a barometer for success. He is pleased with the recent results.
“It is going pretty well,” McKever said. “The first few days here after the decision it was kind of a difficult transition based on defensive line stance and tight end stance but as we’ve had our bowl practices and as the days wore on it got better and better. I feel more comfortable right now.”
Typically the process of moving back and forth would be a hassle, even for a player like McKever who has experienced success on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Moving back to offense has been the least of his worries according to the redshirt-sophomore. He sees plenty of success ahead in his college career.
“I am just a team player,” McKever said. “Wherever coaches need me that is where I am at. I am just going to come in during the offseason and work because I am not quite used to running all the routes. I am not in offensive condition as I would be if I had played it the whole season. I will work on the routes and getting chemistry with the quarterbacks. Next year it will take off.”
The flipping back and forth, which would annoy many, is something McKever thinks will be an asset for him in the future.
“That is what I use as my advantage, McKever said of his skillset. “After playing as a D-Lineman and now being a tight end, it is just thinking one step ahead their movement will be.”
For those who think the move to offense is strictly predicated on next season and beyond, there is the possibility that McKever may provide a glimpse into the future Wednesday against Mississippi State at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
McKever is intent on learning as much as possible with the limited time remaining in the current campaign while also enjoying the perks that come with reaching postseason play.
“The bowl itself is just fun,” McKever said. “We had a few days off and then you go a week or so prior to just enjoy yourself. The practices are then not as intense. You just polish things that will go in with the game plan. Then just hanging with each other, we’ve got a few seniors that are going to be just a little more time, and we will go out and have fun.”
“I have got a few packages for me,” McKever added with a smile. “Blocking packages and even pass packages.”