McGahee: 'This is a dream come true'

OWINGS MILLS -- As Willis McGahee launched his initiation into the Pro Bowl fraternity this week, the Baltimore Ravens' running back has designs on achieving a goal beyond taking in the Hawaii scenery. Named to the AFC squad as an injury replacement for San Diego Chargers star LaDainian Tomlinson, McGahee is intent on engineering a reversal of last season's last-place finish in the AFC North.

"No doubt about it, this is a dream come true and it was something I've always wanted to do," McGahee said in a telephone interview Thursday following a practice session at Kapolei High School. "It's very nice, but my next goal is winning the Super Bowl. I think we can make a quick turnaround. We're much better than 5-11."

During McGahee's inaugural season in Baltimore, he finished fourth in the AFC in rushing with 1,207 yards and seven touchdowns. Plus, he caught 43 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown before missing the season finale with broken ribs.

However, the season was a disaster from a team standpoint as Baltimore slumped to a 5-11 campaign one year removed from a franchise-record 13-3 season and a division title. Ultimately, it cost coach Brian Billick his job after nine seasons as he was fired Dec. 31 by team owner Steve Bisciotti.

"That wasn't a surprise that coach Billick was fired, absolutely not," McGahee said. "Everyone could tell that was going to happen, just because of the way things were going. Someone always has to take the blame in the NFL, that's just how the business goes."

McGahee is optimistic that new coach John Harbaugh and highly-regarded offensive coordinator Cam Cameron can immediately place a winning imprint on a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game since the 2001 season.

Cameron's reputation precedes him based on his work with Tomlinson and a high-scoring Chargers offense prior to a one-year 1-15 stint as the Miami Dolphins' head coach that ended with his dismissal.

"Everyone knows about Cam Cameron, that he's a really good play-caller and that he gets the most out of the running game and the whole offense," McGahee said. "I'm excited about him being our offensive coordinator. I really don't know coach Harbaugh, but I spoke to him on the phone and he seemed like a nice guy."

McGahee was unaware that Wilbert Montgomery had been hired as the Ravens' new running backs coach, but said he looked forward to working with him.

Recovered fully from a pair of fractured ribs, McGahee said he's been preparing diligently for Sunday's game against the NFC at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. Players on the winning team receive a check for $40,000 with the losers receiving $20,000.

It's not purely a business trip, though. Most players, including McGahee, treat this experience as a rewarding vacation that accompanies the football game.

McGahee said he plans to tour the islands over the next few days, especially the volcanoes, in a helicopter.

Mostly, though, McGahee has been enjoying the festivities with teammates Ray Lewis and Ed Reed showing him the ropes at the league's annual all-star game.

"It feels good just getting to hang out with the older guys and be a part of this," McGahee said. "I'm relaxing, having fun and looking forward to Sunday. I just want to have fun and stay healthy.

"This is a game where you don't really try to hurt people. It's about putting on a good show and having a good time."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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