McRae Makes Mark at Penn State

The Calvert Hall (Baltimore, Md.) junior to-be turned heads at State's recent Advanced Skill Camp, a program he already knows plenty about thanks to a few former schoolmates.

To survey the grassy practice fields that sit outside Penn State's Holuba Hall during State's second Advanced Skill Camp, there was plenty of talent to be seen.

Many of the nearly 200 players in attendance came by themselves to showcase their skills in front of a gaggle of college coaches. When it came to Calvert Hall (Baltimore, Md.), though, their assortment of prospects traveled together.

Thirteen of head coach Donald Davis' Rams came north with defensive back coach Cory Robinson to gain a different level of competition than what they tend to match-up against in the D.C. area. Numerous of the Calvert Hall prospects stood out, but none put on a better performance than class of 2015 defensive back Juantez McRae.

Sporting a 6-foot, 170 pound frame that has room to expand, McRae caught the eye of many on-hands for the Lions camp, though the Lions had caught his eye long before.

In fact, it was two years ago that McRae said he first began to follow State and his program. Calvert Hall alum and Lion defensive back Adrian Amos was on TV that day, and McRae was obliged to check-out his former schoolmate. He can't recall the game, but he knows it, and Amos, made an impression.

Now, he's hoping to make the same impression on Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien, defensive coordinator John Butler, and the rest of the Lions staff.

"It was a really great experience," McRae said of the camp. "I took what I learned from the coaches, which was a lot and mixed it with what Coach Cory has taught me."

The play that McRae remembers requires a rewind to Amos' freshman year. It was then that the defensive back blew up a would-be receiver moments before he would intercept a pass. Since then, McRae has been interested in State.

Amos is not his only connection to the Lions, though. Current defensive backs Da'Quan Davis and Trevor Williams are both Calvert Hall alums, and the latter grew-up down the street from McRae. Though they never played together, the junior to-be says Williams has acted as a role model to him, and the trio tell him Penn State is wonderful when he inquires about the program.

Butler is leading the charge for McRae, and the defensive back has seen him in action, catching parts of both the Lions 2012 season-opening loss to Ohio, and it's dominating 38-14 victory over Iowa. Williams told him to check-out both games ahead of time, and McRae added that he knew both games were most-watch contests because of that.

"I really like Penn State. Trevor is a great role model, and I talk to Da'Quan and Adrian whenever they come home," McRae said. "I want to start visiting, and maybe start a legacy."

The quartet complete pieces of State's secondary drills whenever the State trio return to Baltimore, giving McRae the opportunity to learn more from his hometown heroes, and also try and match them, too.

He says even if he doesn't perfect the drill or specific skill they are working on, he focuses on it so that he will have it figured out before the group returns home again. To him, showing them that he can compete is as satisfying as showing college coaches he can compete.

And satisfying others is a quality he likes, too. McRae noted that Penn State's staff stands out to him because of their constructive ways, helping to put a smile on their players face even if they mess up. He values putting a smile on the face of those who watch him play.

Touting offers from Boston College, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, North Carolina State, Old Dominion, Toledo, and Youngstown State, McRae will visit both Cincinnati and Toledo with his teammates this summer. Other trips are possible, as well.

"A close bond" is how he described his relationship with Butler, but he's also adamant that a relationship with the defensive coordinator will only enhance as he grows older, stronger, faster, and better. It amounts to something to look forward to on the field, while, at the same time, he looks toward his next opportunity to sit down and talk recruiting and football off of it.

A trip to University Park is possible for a home game this fall, because "I would just like to see how it feels, and how the atmosphere is."

He's also attempting to fully grasp switching from safety to cornerback, which he will do for Calvert Hall this fall. Film of him playing corner will help his recruiting pitch, he believes, along with his leadership qualities. Once that transition is complete, the defensive back hopes he has the complete package to offer college programs across the country.

That includes Penn State. And unlike its atmosphere, he knows how he would feel if State were to offer him.

"It would explode my mind," McRae exclaimed. "It would make me feel happy, and as if I achieve my goal, but not my mission.

"My mission wouldn't be complete, but to get a Penn State offer, I would feel at home, and they would definitely be in my top interests."

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