Now entering the back half of his senior year at Cleveland St. Ignatius, the middle linebacker found himself receiving marginal interest from the Buckeyes despite having put together an impressive regular season as a junior.
After completing a 9-1 regular season, McVey and his teammates opened the 2008 state Division I playoffs as the overall top seed and blitzed Lakewood St. Edward by a 37-0 score. Four games later, they held on for a 28-20 victory against Cincinnati Elder in the title game, giving the program its state-record 10th championship.
McVey saved his best for last. In the title game against Elder, he was officially credited with eight tackles including 4½ sacks and an interception and was named Championship Weekend MVP by Scout.com for his performance.
Although McVey said there is not one specific play that sticks out in his mind, he said he could tell he was playing at a different level compared to the regular season.
"You don't really expect yourself to be able make those kinds of plays until you start doing them," McVey told BuckeyeSports.com. "Now I'm starting to expect that of myself, to be that kind of player. It gave me confidence that I can be a player who can play well at the next level."
As the Wildcats were piling up wins, McVey continued to pile up the big plays. When the dust had settled, it did not take long for Ohio State – and other schools – to notice.
It took all of two days for the Buckeyes and Notre Dame to issue McVey scholarship offers. Until that point, the then-three-star prospect had been receiving interest from colleges but no official offers.
"It wasn't that he wasn't doing well during the regular season – he was certainly establishing himself," St. Ignatius head coach Chuck Kyle said. "He was an all-state candidate during the season, but when you start talking about making major plays in major games, the playoffs really would be a highlight video for him – especially the state playoff game. I thought he played extremely well."
As the buzz began to build surrounding McVey, the player himself said he was completely unaware.
"I would talk to Ohio State every once in a while and I would talk to Notre Dame every once in a while and teams like that," he said. "They didn't really seem that interested. It was kind of random that Ohio State would offer the Monday after the state championship game. I was definitely excited about it."
Kyle received a phone call from the OSU coaching staff the Monday morning following the title game informing him that McVey could expect a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes. When Kyle and McVey crossed paths that afternoon after school, the coach told the athlete that he had a piece of news for him.
It would prove to be one of those life-changing conversations.
"I can remember the expression on his face," Kyle said. "Definitely shock, but it almost was like you can see a kid in a few moments go from just being innocent and youthful to, ‘Woah, this is the big world now.' The big world of football had just hit this young man because he was surprised."
The end result was a verbal commitment to the Buckeyes. Now having completed his senior season on the gridiron, McVey is ranked as a four-star prospect and the No. 4 middle linebacker in the country. When he committed, he was listed at three stars and the No. 12 outside linebacker.
"I think just by human nature you love kids who make big plays in big games," OSU recruiting coordinator John Peterson said. "I think you're attracted to a kid who can go into a state championship game and take control and produce in those situations. There's no question that that's a variable that you like to see in guys, whether it's a big rivalry game they play their best in or it's a championship game."
So what would have happened had McVey's team been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs during his junior year? He has a thought.
"Definitely I don't think I would have an offer from Ohio State because some of the best games I played were in the playoffs and helped me get an offer from schools of Ohio State's caliber," McVey said.