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North Carolina A&T’s Franklin McCain declaring for NFL draft

The All-American cornerback, who has already graduated with two degrees, says he’s ready to go to next level

The NFL better get ready to bring Mac McCain his money.

Franklin “Mac” McCain III, an All-American defensive back and grandson of a civil rights icon, said in an exclusive interview this week that he is forgoing his final two seasons of eligibility at North Carolina A&T State to enter his name in the 2021 NFL draft.

McCain, who has already earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture business at N.C. A&T, said uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic over whether the Aggies would have a season in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in the spring or in the Big South in the fall weighed heavily in this decision.

“I had to make a decision that was best for my career at this point,” McCain said. “There was the risk of coming back another year and risking another injury. There are a lot of questions with COVID, and you just don’t know what could happen.”

McCain, who played three seasons for the Aggies, said people knowledgeable about the NFL draft project that he could be selected in the “middle to late rounds.”

And by not setting another foot on the playing field, McCain said, “I feel like it will be all up to me with pro days and combines.”

Those activities also might be impacted by the pandemic.

“After talking to guys [Aggies alumni] already in the NFL, guys who have been through this experience, I feel there is nothing that can stop me,” McCain said. “The sky is the limit when I have God on my side.”

He said he has fully recovered from an ACL injury that cut into his 2018 and 2019 seasons. McCain burst into the national scene in the 2017 season when he made six interceptions, returning three for touchdowns, including a game-winning pick-six on the road against Charlotte.

For the remainder of much of his college career, opposing offenses rarely threw the football in McCain’s direction. Over three years, he received multiple FCS All-American honors – from the Associated Press, Phil Steele Magazine and BoxToRow, among others.

In 2019, Pro Football Network called McCain “the next HBCU NFL star.”

McCain said his fondest moments at N.C. A&T include “winning championships every year I played. You can’t beat back-to-back championships.”

N.C. A&T, the largest historically Black university in the nation, has won four of the last five Celebration Bowls, emblematic of the Black college national championship.

“Probably my favorite game was East Carolina,” a 28-23 Aggies victory in Greenville, North Carolina. “We were supposed to play on Saturday, but we played on Sunday. The team was split into two hotels, and by the time we got to the stadium, ECU was already there and warmed up.”

That game also produced a viral postgame video of Aggies coach Sam Washington enthusiastically demanding the road opponent’s appearance guarantee, saying:

“Tell them to bring me my money!”

North Carolina A&T Aggies defensive back Franklin “Mac” McCain III (center) is presented the defensive MVP trophy by John Grant (right), Celebration Bowl executive director, after a victory against the Grambling State Tigers in the 2017 Celebration Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

McCain said some people had suggested that he transfer to a bigger school to enhance his visibility, but that was an option he never seriously pondered.

McCain is in the process of letting his coaches know about his decision. A Greensboro, North Carolina, native who played at Dudley High School, McCain said he never seriously considered transferring.

“My loyalty was always with my brothers at N.C. A&T,” McCain said. “People were saying stuff like that, but I couldn’t leave A&T.

“A&T was the only school to see the potential in me, so I had to stay loyal to the Aggies.”

McCain, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 175 pounds, runs a 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash, has a 34-inch vertical jump, and had 113 tackles (87 unassisted), eight interceptions, 22 pass breakups and 30 pass deflections during his college career.

McCain is the grandson of Franklin McCain Sr., one of the famed Greensboro Four, who engineered the Feb. 1, 1960, integration of Woolworth lunch counters in Greensboro, a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement in America.

McCain said his decision comes after several months of discussion with family, friends and a close-knit group of advisers, including former Aggies in the NFL – Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen, Las Vegas Raiders offensive lineman Brandon Parker, Detroit Lions cornerback Tony McRae and Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Darryl “DJ” Johnson, all who were drafted.

“I would have been able to play again this spring and play again next fall, but you never know whether there will be a season this spring or next fall, you never know,” McCain said.

The Aggies announced in 2019 that they would be moving to the Big South conference to play football starting in fall 2021.

McCain said he plans to sign with Charlotte, North Carolina-based agent Robert Walker, who also represents Johnson. Walker represented Cohen when the former Aggies star first entered the NFL.

“I had to make a decision that was best for my career at this point. There was the risk of coming back another year and risking another injury. There are a lot of questions with COVID, and you just don’t know what could happen.” – Franklin “Mac” McCain III

Franklin McCain Jr., McCain’s father, said he was proud of his son’s accomplishments, both on the field, in the classroom and in life in general.

“As you might imagine, like any father and mother, you want your children to be successful and to fulfill their lifelong dream.”

McCain Jr. said that since his son was young, he talked about going to college and playing sports, with aspirations first of playing in the NBA and later in the NFL. Because of his speed and instincts, he has been projected as a breakthrough-type player.

“To hear and see him execute on his dream is a proud moment indeed.

“It’s also good to know you have a son who has a good heart and who thinks about others before himself – that it’s not about I or me, it’s about we or us.

“He’s a gifted athlete who understands it’s good to lead whenever possible.”

David Squires is an educator and digital journalist who lives in the Charlotte area and teaches journalism at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro. He has covered HBCU sports for several decades, first with the St. Petersburg Times and later as editor-in-chief of the original BlackVoices.com and BVQ magazine. He has also worked in news and sports in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Fort Worth and Hampton Roads. His passion is college basketball, and he is a die-hard Tar Heel -- born and bred.