Most people might think that Brookhaven High School in Columbus came out of nowhere to go undefeated and easily win the Division II state championship last year, but that's simply not the case. The school has put together a string of successful win-loss seasons now, most recently under the direction of quarterback Mike McGee, and this coming season should be no exception.
McGee might not be the biggest name quarterback in the state of Ohio but he's certainly played a big role in the success of the program the last two years and he's been trying to make a name for himself outside of the program at the various camps that he's attended.
"I went to a lot of the Mac school camps like OU (Ohio) and Eastern Michigan. I went to Cincinnati's. I went to a combine in LA in May and I went to the Akron combine. I also went to Ohio State's, the last one that I went to," McGee said. "I believe the camps have helped me a lot. The camps are there not only to learn but to help showcase your abilities and they can either make you or break you. But I think I came out on the positive side of it."
McGee, who was ranked as the state's 33rd best prospect in the recent edition of Ohio High Magazine, has been almost overshadowed by so much talent in the past couple of seasons at Brookhaven. But this year he'll likely be the main cog offensively if the Bearcats hope to have anywhere near the success that they had as a team last year. And that should only help his recruiting status.
"Right now, the ideal situation would be for me to come out with the state championship again, moving up to Division I. That's the first thing," McGee said. "And if I have a great season, as well as my team, I hope that will open up a lot more doors for me. I'm willing to jump into any situation. I'm open to any school. I'm just trying to get my education paid for by doing the things that I do best."
And what McGee does best is play the quarterback position. Last year he threw for 1,902 yards and recorded 22 touchdown passes to go along with nine interceptions. He'd like to have a chance to play the position at the next level but he says he's open to anything.
"I'd like to play quarterback but if it came down to it and I had to switch positions for the good of the team, then that's what I'd do because I'm a team player," McGee said. "I think I could play wide receiver or safety."
There's no plans going into his senior season, his third year as the team's starting quarterback, for McGee to play any defense but he has been working on his skills over the summer in case the need arises.
"I've been working out with our defensive coach every practice doing drills and stuff but my first priority is on offense," he said. "I have to be the leader on the offense but if the opportunity comes then I'll be looking at playing both ways."
Even with an experienced McGee under center and a top-rated target like Jeff Cumberland to throw to, Brookhaven faces a difficult task from just moving up a division as the competition is sure to be a lot stiffer if they should make it back to the playoffs this year.
"Our expectations are, first thing's first, to make it 10-0 during the regular season," McGee said. "We have a big game in week two but we have to take it game-by-game and we start with Chillicothe the first week. But everybody is looking forward to the season starting and our schedule in our minds is 15 games. And we expect to do better than last year."
The precedent, in his mind, was set last year.
"Last year we had a lot of great athletes and they all went to Division I schools and so this year we have a big target on our back so we have to play better," McGee said. "We don't have as much athletic ability as last year so we'll have to play more as a team. But we're always going to have the expectations of finishing 15-0 now."
Glenville might be the first school to take exception to Brookhaven recording another undefeated season. The two city league programs from Cleveland and Columbus respectively will collide in week two of the high school football season as part of day-night double header at Byers Field in Parma.
"People think that because we're moving up it's not going to last in Division I but to us, we'll see in week two," said McGee who has in effect threw the first salvo across the bow. "I think our team is ready, we have a lot of motivation and I see a lot of good things in our future. Our motive last year was to gain respect."
Brookhaven was the first team in 100 years of Columbus city league football to win a state championship.
"It was a great accomplishment for us and everybody felt it," said McGee, who led Brookhaven to a 13-1 mark the year before. "And now that we've got our respect our motive is to keep it. It means a lot to us."
It means a lot to McGee particularly who is a Brookhaven kid, unlike some of the others who transferred into the program. Winning the state championship was extra special to him.
"It's really special," he said. "But the funny thing is, is that I came to Brookhaven with the mind set of playing basketball and then I started to play football and I realized my opportunities, and that's when I started to focus more on football. And now that's my thing. But I've always been a Brookhaven kid. I used to come to all of the games when I was younger."
And now he'd like to be the guy to lead Brookhaven to a second-consecutive state championship. Having a quick-strike target like the 6-6, 225-pound Cumberland, OHM's fifth-rated prospect in the state who has been clocked at a blistering 4.47 in the 40-yard dash, should keep them in every game.
"Jeff is going to be a great prime target for me," McGee said. "We'll split him out some times and move him in tight at times. He's going to be real flexible. Marvin Jones is going to a great target also. And with Ryan Wallace we have nothing but speed at receiver.
"It's going to be like a kid in a candy shop for me. I'm going to have so many targets to go to. I just can't wait for the season to start."
Other then Antoine Roberts at tailback, Brookhaven has just about everybody back on offense. Rodney Holmes, who rushed for about 900 yards last year, and a transfer from Walnut Ridge, Markell Lacy, should help fill Roberts' speedy shoes.
"Come the season, they'll be two backs that you'll be talking a lot about," McGee said. "They're on the shorter side but they're just as good as Roberts was last year. And Lacey is a good corner too so he should help the defense out too."
Because of his size at just 6-0, 194-pound, McGee might be considered a hybrid quarterback but his first emphasis will always be on the passing game before he even thinks about pulling it down to run.
"I'm going to read my keys first and then if I have to run I will. I can do both," McGee said. "I've been working on my quickness, working out with the defense helps me out. Last year I didn't run at all. But this year, I'm going to look at my keys first and if I have to run then I'll run."
And if McGee has enough success doing both, maybe a few Division I offers will come his way after the season.
"My belief is that I'm as good as anybody out there at my position," he said. "But teams are going to look at my height and be scared away by that. And I understand that it's a part of the business and it's a part of recruiting and it's something that I have to live with."
He knows that he can only control the things that he's able to control and that's fine with him.
"A good year individually for me will be just to lead my team but I also want to pick my (completion) percentage up and make a lot of believers out of people this year," McGee said. "I would like to throw for close to 3,000 yards this year and I believe with the offense we run and the receivers that I have that I can do that easily. So it's going to be a great year and an exciting year and I'm looking forward to it."
And he's really looking forward to week two.
"Even when I think about it the energy just comes out in me," McGee said. "I look in all the books and on the Internet and all I see is Glenville, Glenville, Glenville. And I know Brookhaven has just as many athletes as Glenville. I'm just looking forward to the game. It will be speed everywhere, hitting, and the crowd will be there. I can't wait.
"And with us, this game could be the deciding factor whether we make it into the playoffs or not. We go 9-1 and we might be biting our nails to get into the playoffs but if we go 10-0 we won't have nothing to worry about. So this game is big. It's going to be so exciting. Actually I think more people are going to be watching that game than the Ohio State game that day. We play at the same time."
But one game, no matter how big the consequences, does not a season make.
"It's my senior season and I'm just trying to go out with a bang," McGee said. "The seniors went out last year with a bang and that's how I'm trying to end it. It's just so exciting. Even though we won a state championship last year we still have something to prove in our eyes and we're so excited about it."