All-Area football defense - Pharoah McKever
Mon. December 24, 2012 at 8:11 a.m. | By Powell Latimer | StarNews Staff Writer
Pharoah McKever of the South Columbus High School Stallions football team is the 2012 StarNews Player of the Year. This year's Player of the Year photos were completed using Instagram, a popular photo sharing program. (Photo by Photo Illustration by Paul Stephen)
Editor’s Note: The full StarNews All-Area football team selections, along with all-conference teams, will run with the Offensive Player of the Year story in the Dec. 25 edition of the StarNews.
By Powell Latimer
Pharoah McKever appears larger than life: He’s 6-foot-8 and still growing, so his coaches think. On the football field, the South Columbus quarterback has to bend to an almost comically low point just to take the snap. As a safety, he looks like a supersized Batman in the Stallions’ defensive secondary.
Playing almost every snap on both sides of the ball is not new to McKever; he did it last year as a junior as well. But as he churned out nearly 2,500 yards of total offense this season, South Columbus coach Jake Fonvielle said the same thing week after week: McKever’s defensive play was what helped the Stallions win.
The team gave up only 16.3 points per game on its way to a second consecutive trip to the Class 2A state semifinals. And it was obvious that McKever played a big – pun intended – role on his way to being the StarNews All-Area Defensive Player of the Year.
For most opposing quarterbacks, the sight of McKever lurking in the secondary like a modern-day Grendel was enough to dissuade them from throwing deep. If that didn’t work, his eight interceptions did.
“It was pretty fun flying around hitting people,” McKever said. “Being 6-7, nobody can throw over the top of me, or they shouldn’t be able to throw over the top of me.”
McKever’s size also allowed him to be effective in run support. He could get to the line of scrimmage in only a few steps, and had 126 tackles.
While his individual contribution was impressive, McKever’s primary role was as an elder statesman for a young, thin South Columbus roster. With only 28 players listed at the start of the season, sophomores were needed at key positions. McKever was charged with providing an example.
“Give them good self-esteem and make sure it’s all right,” McKever said. “Make sure they know it’s going to be all right if they mess up.”
But being a leader at South Columbus also comes with pressure. The Stallions have won 10 conference championships since 2000, and have had only one losing season in the past 12 years. Wearing a South Columbus jersey means joining a long list of high-profile players. McKever was aware of that legacy and struggled with those expectations early in his career.
Even after two years in the spotlight, he was still pressing too hard in the Stallions’ first scrimmage of 2012: overthrowing receivers, missing assignments, trying again to be perfect. South Columbus coach Jake Fonvielle pulled him aside.
“I told him, ‘You’ve just got to play the game,’” Fonvielle said. “‘Have some fun.’ And I saw him go out there with a little bit of a smile on his face.”
The Stallions eventually finished 12-3, won a share of the Waccamaw Conference title for the third straight year, and again made the state semifinals before losing at Tarboro. McKever is expected to sign a national letter of intent with N.C. State after leaving his mark on South Columbus football.
“He led by example,” Fonvielle said. “And to have the success that he’s had - two regional finals, three conference championships - and to not let it go to his head … He was always a team first and me last.”
Powell Latimer: 343-2261
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