Pernell McPhee is a man who can roll with whatever’s thrown his way. The former Mississippi State standout had a rough 2012 both on and off the field, but now he finds himself a week away from playing in the biggest sporting event in this country: the Super Bowl.
McPhee’s Baltimore Ravens will take on the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans next Sunday. You’ll find the 6-foot-3, 280-pound McPhee, who’s in his second pro season, playing along the defensive line. Sometimes inside, sometimes on the edge – wherever No. 90 is needed.
“I can play any one of those defensive line positions,” he said when I caught up with him on Saturday. “I might get knocked around a little bit, but everybody gets knocked around. I try to hold my ground.”
McPhee has plenty of experience getting knocked around and holding his ground. In 2012 he experienced a trio of tragedies, as a cousin, his sister and a mentor all died in separate incidents. The Ravens’ website has a good story about how McPhee has dealt with all of that heartbreak. He barely alluded to the tragedies when we spoke.
“Even though stuff happened last year, it’s just been a blessing to go out and be able to compete every week, to get to go out here and fight for the guys,” he said. “I play my role, do what I have to do. Whenever I get out there I try to make the best of it and make plays, take advantage of it.”
McPhee has also dealt with injuries, which limited him to 12 games this season. He recorded 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks; as a rookie, he had 6.0 sacks. But he’s done well in the playoffs, deflecting a pair of Tom Brady passes in last week’s AFC championship game win over New England. The first deflection resulted in an interception.
“I really didn’t get a lot of snaps that game, so I had to do something to at least make a play. I get on the field and get snaps in a role, I feel like I’ve got to do something to make a play. (Otherwise) I feel like I wasn’t of any use to the team.”
McPhee’s teammate, linebacker Ray Lewis, will be playing the final game of his 17-year career next week. He’s a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, and McPhee has enjoyed being along for Lewis’ final ride.
“Man, it’s been a blessing, a great opportunity. He’s one of the greatest of our game. It’s something I can tell my kids, that I played the last game with one of the greatest players to play the game. I thank God every day I get to go out to practice with him.”
And McPhee tries to soak up everything he can from Lewis.
“He’s always got a positive attitude. Some people really don’t take advantage of when veterans tell you some things. … I’ve been trying to take advantage of every little thing he can give me.”
Baltimore will be departing for New Orleans on Monday afternoon, and then the media frenzy that is Super Bowl week will commence. It will be a new experience for McPhee, who hails from Pahokee, Fla., and played at Itawamba CC before starring at MSU for two years.
“I’m ready,” he said. “Ain’t no big deal. I’ll be chilling in my room until the Super Bowl is over with.”
McPhee will be playing opposite a former MSU teammate, running back Anthony Dixon. The two will not be friends this week.
“I’m looking forward to smacking him,” said McPhee. “If he’s in the game and I’m in the game, I’m going to try to smack him.”
So have the two been talking lately?
“Naw, we’re enemies right now. No sympathy, no love, no nothing right now.”