Fueled by family, Khalid McGee motors his way to USF stardom

USF's senior escaped a boyhood of danger and tragedy to flourish for the Bulls defense.
USF senior weakside linebacker Khalid McGee leads USF with 45 tackles in five games. (CHRIS URSO | Times)
USF senior weakside linebacker Khalid McGee leads USF with 45 tackles in five games. (CHRIS URSO | Times)
Published Oct. 11, 2018

TAMPA — The fidgeting dervish forming inside of Angela Glass gave her no peace. Every wee and waking hour, this bustle of joy inside her squirmed.

"He used to move in the morning, he used to move in the daytime, he used to move at night," said Glass, then a dispatch supervisor for the Miami Police Department. "And because I had a job that I used to sit down all the time, it just was so uncomfortable because he'd usually just be wiggling around all the time."

By the time the baby mercifully arrived, Glass had settled on a first name ideally suited for this, her second boy. It was a Swahili term meaning "everlasting duration." And man, had the previous nine months seemed everlasting to Glass.

More than 21 years later, Khalid Dajour McGee's motor still hasn't stopped running.

"That kid can run from sideline to sideline," said USF senior nickel back Ronnie Hoggins, who arrived in Tampa with McGee in 2015. "When he's out there patrolling man, it's tough. He makes our defense go."

Friday night in Tulsa, McGee — USF's undersized, over-achieving weakside linebacker — will harness all the centrifugal force a 199-pound frame can muster, and try to unleash it on the Golden Hurricane ball carriers.

A converted safety, he enters tonight's American Athletic Conference matchup leading the No. 23 Bulls (5-0, 1-0) with 45 tackles.

"I'm having fun out there just flying around, trying to do it for my teammates," he said.
Defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary calls him a "work in progress" at his relatively new spot.

"You see his toughness because he's not the biggest guy," Jean-Mary said. "But he's battling 300-pounders every week."

For all intents, his debut at linebacker occurred last November at UCF. With his defense overwhelmed by UCF's offensive speed early on, Bulls coach Charlie Strong went small and slid McGee up in an effort to neutralize the Knights' fleetness.

McGee finished that game, a 49-42 UCF victory, with 10 tackles. He added six more in a Birmingham Bowl triumph against Texas Tech.

"McGee has done a really good job for us, and he's really become a leader on defense," Strong said. "Undersized, but he makes a lot of plays. … Plays with a lot of passion."

It's practically inherent. The tyke who used to sleep in his Miami Dolphins uniform (helmet included) was playing for the Liberty City Optimist Warriors by age 4. He was around 6 or 7 when he hit an opposing player so hard, the boy lost consciousness for a few seconds.

On another occasion, Glass said, a mother stormed the field demanding to see McGee's birth certificate, refusing to believe a kid who hit so powerfully could be that young.

"I had to take him out of the game because he hit little boys so hard," said Jeffery Johnson, McGee's great-uncle and youth coach at the time. "I used to tell him you can't hit everybody that hard, not everyone can take that hit."

Yet somewhere within this blunt-force, ball-hawking machine, a restrictor plate of some sort is nestled. Has to be.

Self-control and prudence has governed McGee's life as much as reckless abandon. Otherwise, he long ago could've skidded off course and plunged into one of the assorted pitfalls dotting his perilous inner-city landscape.

"I always tell him, 'Whatever you do, if you think first, you can't go wrong,' " Johnson said.

Count Johnson as a strong paternal figure in the community of friends and family members who helped raise Khalid and older brother Khambrel.

Tuesday marked the 19-year anniversary of the death of their dad. The body of Kevin McGee, who worked in a Publix warehouse, was found by a newspaper deliveryman in a Miramar street in the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 9, 1999. Police determined he had been shot twice in the chest, the Miami Herald reported.

He was 31. Glass, who never married Kevin but was with him for 11 years, said the person responsible for his death hasn't been found.

"We were two peas in a pod," Glass said, "but we never got that closure of knowing what happened."

With Glass working almost constantly, Johnson stepped in to help fill that fatherly void. Ultimately, so did Khambrel (nearly six years older than Khalid) and a stepfather (Ruye Glass, from whom Angela Glass is now divorced). Johnson's wife Robin was there, as were other relatives.

"It was tough. I mean, just staying out of trouble, and Miami, it's so easy to get in trouble," said Khambrel, now employed by Miami-Dade's parks and recreation department.

"You can be even at home and trouble just finds you. … For me, it was keeping my little brother right, making sure he wasn't a follower, making sure he wasn't doing what the other kids were doing. … We had a good family though, a supportive family that was always there for us."

Encompassed by this circle of support, Khambrel and Khalid both evolved into standouts at Miami's Northwestern High. Khambrel began his collegiate career at FIU before transferring to Hampton University, where he played four seasons as a defensive back and earned a degree in sports management.

Khalid is slated to graduate next spring with a criminology degree, and is on pace for a 100-tackle season. Neither sibling has a criminal record or a child, a fact their mother notes more than once during a recent conversation.

"I knew what they could get into," said Glass, who now lives in Atlanta and works as a dispatcher for Georgia State University's police department. "I knew the type of calls we used to get. … You've got 9-year-olds carjacking people and shooting people and beating their mothers.

"Him going to school in the inner city … and all his friends come from there, it's a whole lot he could've got into, him and Khambrel. But I'm thankful and I'm blessed. Truly, truly, truly blessed."

Khalid, barely 2 when his father died, said relatives often have told him Kevin wanted his boys to play football and win the biggest trophies. The shinier the better. Today, Khalid's still working on the expansive collection. He says the desire to make his dad and family proud is what fuels him.

Perhaps that explains his perpetual motor.

"I know he's looking down at me right now just wanting me to play football, and he's proud of me," Khalid said. "I know he's proud of me, how far I've come."

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.