Zech McPhearson has always gone overlooked in his eyes. The youngest of seven boys, the Columbia, MD native has never garnered the attention he’s deserved, a notion to his quiet approach to the game of football.
His father Gerrick was taken by the New England Patriots in the 1989 NFL Draft. Gerrick Jr., his elder brother, was a seventh-round pick of the New York Giants in the 2006 NFL Draft. And now, 15 years later, McPhearson is enduring the evaluation process for his own, with help of his NFL lineage.
“Definitely having an older brother, my dad… it definitely helps with this process a lot,” McPhearson said.
“Just seeing them go through it as a young boy, it’s really helped me through the ins and out of the process that a lot of people don’t know about. It can get really tedious at times but having a good family and coaches behind you helps.”
Looked upon as a potential day three selection in the draft, McPhearson’s path to the draft was one off the beaten path. An aforementioned Maryland native, McPhearson grew up under the lights of Byrd Stadium, with dreams and aspirations of becoming a Maryland Terrapin. However, as the recruiting process played out, McPhearson found himself without an offer from his local institution.
From there, McPhearson’s journey to becoming one of the more physical, instinctive, fluid corners at the latter half of the draft has come to fruition. He began his collegiate career in Happy Valley where he spent two seasons as a rotational corner and special teams ace for the Nittany Lions. Following his redshirt sophomore season in 2018, McPhearson struggled to find opportunities to play during the ensuing fall.
As a result, he graduated early from Penn State which then immediately made him eligible to enter the NCAA’s transfer portal.
The rest is history.
During his first season in Lubbock, McPhearson started each of Texas Tech’s 12 games in 2019 totaling 51 tackles, five passes defensed, while continuing his success on special teams blocking two kicks.
McPhearson followed his junior campaign with a breakout 2020, highlighted with him being named First Team All-Big 12. As a team captain, McPhearson led the Red Raiders in interceptions (4), which also ranked tied for eighth in the nation among all defenders.
That ball-hawking ability, McPhearson says, is an attribute to his fluidity and versatility on the outside that has now garnered attention from scouts across the league in search of play-making corners.
“Having a background playing outside corner, nickel, and a little bit of safety has helped me a lot,” McPhearson said. “I’ve put that on film and teams have liked that.”
With such a unique skill set, there’s a special place for talents like McPhearson at the next level, where the third phase of the game—special teams—have become an ever-important chess piece when determining the outcome of a game. Looking back to players like Matthew Slater for the New England Patriots and Lorenzo Alexander of the Buffalo Bills and Washington Football Team: both captains for their respective NFL organizations, both of whom made their living on special teams.
A projected late-round selection, McPhearson should be able to carve out a role within a 53-man roster, whether as a rotational corner or as a special teams contributor. A former “spur” within the Red Raiders defense tasked in a hybrid safety/linebacker role, McPhearson’s excellent versatility, aggressiveness, and innate ability to make plays on the football in space highlights a skill set that should no longer go overlooked.