"Ever since I was little, I've always wanted to go to school like NC State," said McGhee. "One thing that impressed me about them was the fact that they were so interested in me at the start of my junior year. Another thing was, when I was in a car wreck after football season junior year, out of all the schools that were recruiting me, they were the only ones to call and ask if I was OK."
NC State was quick to offer McGhee, beating out teams like South Carolina, Tennessee, UNC, Illinois and Virginia. And Lunsford was particularly impressed with how fast the State coaches offered after seeing Lemarte for the first time, especially since he had not played much football earlier in his high school career.
"He fell behind a little bit by not playing his sophomore year," said Lunsford. "He was concentrating on basketball at that time, and it took him a while to get caught up. I think NC State saw the potential in him his junior year. And this year, I think he's pretty much lived up to his potential."
In only his second full season of football, McGhee tallied 68 tackles, 7 ½ sacks, four fumbles caused, and five balls batted down. But according to Lunsford, the numbers are more impressive when you take into account the fact that he double-teamed for nearly the entire season. In fact, he noted that not only was McGhee named "Defensive Lineman of the Year" by the Pac 6 coaches, he was also the primary force on a defense that was made up primarily of inexperienced sophomores.
"His most valuable asset to our team is that everybody had to double-team him," said Lunsford. "Nobody could single block him. That freed up our linebackers to make plays. His numbers don't really show how well he really played for us this year."
Known as "Buck" to his teammates, Lemarte also plays center for the Person basketball team, where he averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds per game as a junior. And while, his future is clearly in football, McGhee has raised the possibility of playing both sports in college, like former UNC lineman Julius Peppers. But it is likely that Wolfpack fans will see him use his 35-inch vertical leap more on the football field rather than the basketball court next year.
Lunsford also expects McGhee to make a significant impact at the college level, especially because he has the potential to add a significant amount of weight to his 6'6" frame. At Person, players are not allowed to lift weights during the school day. And since Lemarte plays both football and basketball, he has already missed out on a significant amount of weightlifting. But Lunsford knows that will change next year. "Once NC State gets him over there and gets him on a program," he says, "I think you'll easily see him grow up to a 295-lb. tackle."
Even though McGhee has the skills to play tight end and defensive end, his future appears to be at the defensive tackle position. Lunsford has played him at nose tackle for most of his career because of his quickness off the ball and his outstanding technique. But according to Lemarte, he could end up playing anywhere along the defensive line. "It all depends on how much weight I put on in the off-season," he said. "I prefer playing at defensive end, but I'll work hard at whatever position they want me to play."
The only thing holding up McGhee's Wolfpack career at this point, however, is his SAT score. He just took the test last week and has another chance to take it in mid-December. Lunsford says that he is very close, and that he is optimistic about McGhee's chances to qualify academically.
"Lemarte has the size and speed to make an impact at State," Lunsford added. "And I know that he'll help Coach Amato continue to build up that program over there."
Wolfpack Verbal Lemarte McGhee