Willis McGahee
refer to caption
McGahee with the Baltimore Ravens in 2009
No. 21, 23, 26
Position:Running back
Personal information
Born: (1981-10-21) October 21, 1981 (age 41)
Miami, Florida
Height:6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight:235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High school:Miami Central
(West Little River, Florida)
College:Miami (FL)
NFL Draft:2003 / Round: 1 / Pick: 23
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing attempts:2,095
Rushing yards:8,474
Rushing touchdowns:65
Receiving yards:1,339
Receiving touchdowns:5
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

Willis Andrew McGahee III (born October 21, 1981) is a former American football running back. He played college football at Miami, where he was recognized as a consensus All-American, and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft. In addition to his time with the Bills, McGahee played for the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, and Cleveland Browns.

In 2015, McGahee signed on as an athlete for the Miami Surge of the National Pro Grid League.[1][2]

Early years

McGahee was born in Miami, Florida. He attended Miami Central High School for one year[3] after transferring from Miami Springs High School, where he previously attended for three years.[4]

College career

McGahee received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Miami, where he played for coach Butch Davis and coach Larry Coker's Miami Hurricanes football teams from 2000 to 2002.[5][6] McGahee broke several records in the 2002 season. He shattered school season records, carrying the ball 282 times for 1,753 yards, for a 6.2 average, and 28 touchdowns. Only UCF's Kevin Smith (29 in 2007), Florida Atlantic's Devin Singletary (32 in 2017), Nebraska's Mike Rozier (29 in 1983), Colorado State's Kapri Bibbs (31 in 2013), Wisconsin's Montee Ball (33 in 2011), and Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders (37 in 1988) ran for more touchdowns in an NCAA Division I-A season.

McGahee's ten 100-yard performances broke the Hurricanes' season record of eight, set by Ottis Anderson in 1978; he added 355 yards on 25 receptions, for a 14.2 average, that season. He gained 2,108 all-purpose yards during 2002, which remains a Hurricanes' season record.[7]

McGahee was a member of the 2001 University of Miami team, which won the National Championship over Nebraska in the 2002 Rose Bowl that year.[8]

In 2002, McGahee, along with Ken Dorsey, Andre Johnson, Kellen Winslow II, and others helped lead Miami to an undefeated regular season and a #1 ranking, which included a trip to the National Championship game against second ranked Ohio State.[9][10] Following his 2002 sophomore season, he was a first-team All-Big east selection and was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American.[11] He was also a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, given to the nation's top player, finishing fourth in the voting (660 votes), while teammate Ken Dorsey finished fifth with 643 votes.[12]

In the early part of the fourth quarter during the 2003 Fiesta Bowl National Championship Game, McGahee suffered an injury after catching a screen pass from Dorsey.[13] He was immediately hit by Buckeye safety Will Allen, turning his left knee into a swivel joint and causing tears of the ACL, PCL, and MCL. Prior to getting hurt, he had rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown, as Miami would lose the game in double-overtime, 31–24. This injury required several surgeries and extensive rehabilitation before he would be able to play again. At the season's end, McGahee announced he would not collect on a $2.5 million insurance policy he had taken out before the Championship game, and therefore would enter the 2003 NFL Draft.[14]

At the conclusion of his collegiate career, he had rushed for 2,067 yards and 31 touchdowns. He majored in criminology while at the University of Miami.[15]

College statistics

Willis McGahee Rushing Receiving
Year Team GP Att Yards Avg TDs Rec Yards TDs
2001 Miami 8 67 314 4.7 3 1 -7 0
2002 Miami 13 282 1,753 6.2 28 27 355 0
College Totals 21 349 2,067 5.9 31 28 348 0


Professional career

Pre-draft measurables
Height Weight Arm length Hand span 40-yard dash
6 ft 0+38 in
(1.84 m)
223 lb
(101 kg)
30 in
(0.76 m)
9+14 in
(0.23 m)
4.45 s
All values from NFL Combine[17][18]

Buffalo Bills

Prior to his knee injury in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, McGahee was considered "a cinch top-five pick."[19] Afterwards, McGahee was projected a late third round pick due to risk of "a long rehabilitation process".[20] Eventually, he was selected in the first round with the 23rd overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. The Bills originally acquired the pick in a trade that sent Peerless Price to the Atlanta Falcons.[21] Due to the length of the rehabilitation for his knee, he sat out the entire 2003 season, but subsequently had two straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons upon his return to playing.[22] Following the 2006 season, after McGahee had made disparaging remarks about the city of Buffalo—including an implication that the Bills should move to Toronto—the Bills traded him to the Baltimore Ravens. The Bills received third and seventh round picks in the 2007 NFL Draft and a third round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.[23]

Baltimore Ravens

McGahee was traded to the Baltimore Ravens before the 2007 season.[24] He replaced Jamal Lewis, who left the team to play for the Cleveland Browns. He was slated to earn $40.12 million through a seven-year contract, making him one of the league's highest paid running backs. In his first season with Baltimore he rushed for 1,207 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. McGahee also made his first Pro Bowl in 2007, on the strength of five 100+ yard games, and a streak of seven straight games with a rushing touchdown. In addition, he recorded his first career receiving touchdown, along with a career-high 231 receiving yards on 43 receptions. Due to a cracked rib injury suffered against the Seattle Seahawks late in the season, he came up just short (roughly 30 yards) of having his best career rushing season, as he had been on pace to do so at the time with his best yards-per-carry average and his best career yards-per-game average. Until his injury, he had been ranked in the top five rushing leaders all season.

McGahee was slated to be the starting running back under new head coach John Harbaugh in 2008, but various injuries through the season, including eye, shoulder, knee and ankle injuries, kept him from achieving his fourth 1,000-yard season in the NFL. Fullback LeRon McClain wound up taking a majority of the snaps that season, as both McGahee and rookie Ray Rice suffered injuries during the season. Despite his injuries, McGahee still rushed for 671 yards and 7 scores, including a career-long 77-yard touchdown run against the Dallas Cowboys. He was instrumental in what Baltimore dubbed their "Three-Headed-Monster" rushing attack and still played a key role in the team's 11-5 record and playoff berth.

McGahee's first career post-season play came in 2008, and he did not disappoint. With minor injuries to McClain and Rice, the Ravens relied on McGahee to carry their rushing attack in the playoffs, where he was vital in a 27-9 victory over the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card Round, and in a close 13-10 victory over the top rated Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round. During the 2008 AFC Championship Game, Willis was the Ravens' primary offensive weapon, scoring two touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers to keep the game close. However, following a hard hit by Ryan Clark, he was taken off the field on a stretcher to be evaluated by team physicians.[25] He would later be diagnosed with no serious injury.

McGahee signing autographs at Andrews Air Force Base, 2007
McGahee signing autographs at Andrews Air Force Base, 2007

McGahee spent the 2009 offseason more seriously dedicated to rehabbing and coming back better than ever. Despite McGahee's extra training, the Ravens decided to go with second-year player Ray Rice as their starter. McClain's carries were drastically reduced, as he took on his traditional run blocking FB role, but McGahee's carries were also severely limited during several games, as the team either tried to have a pass-heavy attack, or relied almost entirely on Rice. Despite this, Willis remained fresh and injury free the entire season, and would actually become the teams' leading scorer, with 14 touchdowns (12 rushing, 2 receiving). In Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs, he scored two rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns in one game, another career record. His 14 regular season touchdowns saw him tied for second most touchdowns in the league in 2009.

McGahee ended the season with his best career game, racking up 167 yards and three touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders. He also added 60 yards and a touchdown in a Wild Card Round 33-14 blowout of the New England Patriots.[26]

During the 2010 offseason, McGahee opted to remain with the Baltimore Ravens, instead of going to another team as a possible starter. In week one versus the Jets, McGahee scored the game's only touchdown on a one-yard run which contributed to a Ravens' win. McGahee scored a crucial nine-yard touchdown against the Steelers in Week 4. In Week 5, McGahee rushed for 67 yards and a 30-yard touchdown against the Broncos. In week 7, McGahee faced his former team, the Buffalo Bills. In that game, McGahee had 74 total yards which included a 25-yard run and a 2-yard touchdown. In Week 9, McGahee scored a touchdown on a 32-yard screen reception on Baltimore's opening drive. This marked the first time in the season that the Ravens had scored on the opening drive. In Week 14 against the Texans, McGahee scored the team's first touchdown on a 1-yard run. In Week 15 against the Saints, McGahee had 7 carries for 53 yards and a 28-yard run up the middle. In the 2010 Wildcard Playoff Game against the Kansas City Chiefs, McGahee scored a 25-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter that sealed the win for Baltimore. The Ravens won by a score of 30-7.

The Ravens released McGahee on July 28, 2011, to allow the team to free up salary cap space.[27] In his four seasons as a Baltimore Raven, he accrued over 3,300 total yards from scrimmage, as well as 35 total regular season touchdowns, including 31 rushing touchdowns.[28]

Denver Broncos

McGahee with the Denver Broncos, 2012
McGahee with the Denver Broncos, 2012

2011 season

On July 30, 2011, McGahee signed a four-year deal with the Denver Broncos worth $9.5 million, $3 million being guaranteed.[29] Following an injury in Week 1 to Knowshon Moreno, McGahee became the primary running back for the Broncos and in Week 2 versus the Cincinnati Bengals, he rushed for 101 yards on 28 carries and a 1-yard touchdown run.[30][31] In a Week 3 loss to the Titans, McGahee ran for 52 yards on 22 carries and had a 5-yard reception for a touchdown.[32] During a Week 4 loss to the Packers, McGahee rushed 15 times for 103 yards with two receptions for 10 yards.[33] In a Week 5 loss to the Chargers, McGahee rushed for 125 yards on 16 carries.[34] In the Week 7 win against the Dolphins, in the early second half McGahee already racked up 76 yards with an average of 4.2 yards per carry.[35] It looked as if McGahee was on pace for his third-straight 100 yard game, and fourth of the season. However, McGahee fractured his hand early in the second half as well.[36] In that game, McGahee could have moved up from 10th in the NFL in rushing to 8th. McGahee was unable to play the following week against the Lions due to his injury. The Broncos lost 45-10.[37] However, the following week against the Raiders, McGahee came back with a strong performance. He put up 163 rushing yards, which included a 60-yard touchdown and 24-yard touchdown.[38] In a Week 10 game against the Chiefs, McGahee ran up one of his blockers legs, and suffered a left hamstring injury.[39] He was taken to the locker room and listed as questionable to return. Head coach John Fox stated in a post-game press conference that McGahee was fine and could've returned in an emergency situation. Fox also said McGahee would most likely be able to play in the next game.

On November 23, 2011, McGahee was named a team captain after the release of captain and backup quarterback Kyle Orton. Coach Fox attributed this to the fact that McGahee "had the next most votes when we took the vote [for team captain] back before the season started."[40] In the Week 12 versus the Chargers, he rushed for 117 yards on 23 carries. The 117 yards included two 20-plus yard runs. One of which was a 24-yard run in overtime which set up the Broncos inside of the 20-yard line. This critical run set up the game-winning field goal for Denver.[41] In a Week 13 win against the Vikings, he picked up 111 yards on the ground, which included a 24-yard touchdown run.[42]

In Week 15 against the New England Patriots, McGahee rushed for 70 yards averaging 10 yards per carry but was unfortunately pulled out of the game due to a hamstring injury.[43][44] With only 10 yards to go to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, Willis was able to accomplish that feat on a 24-yard run against the Buffalo Bills in week 16. He ended the game with only 64 yards rushing and 15 carries.[45] The next week against the Kansas City Chiefs, McGahee rushed for 145 yards on 28 carries in the 7–3 loss.[46] On January 17, 2012, McGahee was added to the 2012 Pro Bowl Roster to replace Arian Foster.[47] He was ranked 98th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2012.[48]

2012 season

For the 2012 season, McGahee started as the number one running back on the Broncos depth chart.[49] McGahee played well, averaging 4.4 yards per carry through his first ten starts. He had three games going over 100 rushing yards. After amassing 731 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games, McGahee suffered a season-ending injury in Week 11 in a game against the San Diego Chargers on November 18, 2012.[50][51] The injury occurred when his knee was hit by the helmet of Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer during the second quarter of the Broncos' 30-23 win.[52] Coach John Fox initially stated that McGahee would not be placed on Injured Reserve, but on November 19, McGahee underwent an MRI that revealed a torn medial collateral ligament and compression fracture in his right knee. McGahee was placed on Injured Reserve on November 21, while the Broncos used the NFL's new "Designated for Return" label, meaning that he could potentially play in the post season.[53]

McGahee was designated for assignment on June 13, 2013 due to health concerns and then waived on June 16.[54]

Cleveland Browns

After the Cleveland Browns traded Trent Richardson, their first-round (third overall) pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, to the Indianapolis Colts for their first-round choice in 2014, the Browns brought in McGahee to replace him.[55] After passing his team physical, McGahee agreed to terms with the Browns.[56]

In the 2013 season, McGahee appeared in 12 games and had 38 carries for 377 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.[57]

Personal life

McGahee was known for both his dislike of Applebee’s (which his successor in Buffalo, Marshawn Lynch, lampooned in an ESPN skit with Kenny Mayne.) and his multiple children with various women in his life. Last count had him at 10 children by 9 different women by the time he was 32.[58]

In 2016, he starred on the E! reality television series Famously Single.[59]

McGahee made several appearances in television commercials for Easterns Automotive Group, a local car dealership group on the Washington D. C. and Baltimore areas, alongside Chief Zee, Antwaan Randle El and Santana Moss.[60]

NFL career statistics

Year Team Games Rushing Receiving Fumbles
GP GS Att Yds Avg Lng TD Rec Yds Avg Lng TD Fum Lost
2003 BUF 0 0 Did not play due to injury
2004 BUF 16 11 284 1,128 4.0 41 13 22 169 7.7 16 0 4 2
2005 BUF 16 15 325 1,247 3.8 27 5 28 178 6.4 19 0 1 1
2006 BUF 14 14 259 990 3.8 57T 6 18 156 8.7 56 0 4 2
2007 BAL 15 15 294 1,207 4.1 46T 7 43 231 5.4 30 1 4 3
2008 BAL 13 8 170 671 3.9 77T 7 24 173 7.2 35 0 3 3
2009 BAL 16 1 109 544 5.0 77T 12 15 85 5.7 14 2 1 1
2010 BAL 15 2 100 380 3.8 30T 5 14 55 3.9 32T 1 2 2
2011 DEN 15 14 249 1,199 4.8 60T 4 12 51 4.3 12 1 4 3
2012 DEN 10 9 167 731 4.4 31 4 26 221 8.5 31 0 5 4
2013 CLE 12 6 138 377 2.7 16 2 8 20 2.5 9 0 1 1
Career[61] 142 95 2,095 8,474 4.0 77 65 210 1,339 6.4 56 5 29 22


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