North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.
Mike McGee played football during an era in which linemen frequently heard their names called out for doing things other than getting called for holding.
Playing on both sides of the ball for Duke between 1957-59, the Elizabeth City native twice earned first-team All-ACC honors. He was an honorable mention All-American as a junior and a first-team selection the following year, a season he became the ACC’s first winner of the Outland Trophy — the award given annually to the nation’s best interior lineman. He also won the McKelvin Award as the league’s Athlete of the Year in 1960.
McGee’s legacy was so unforgettable that nearly a half-century after he played his final game for the Blue Devils, he was selected to the ACC 50th Anniversary Football Team.
After graduation, he played in both the Hula Bowl and East-West Shrine Game as well as the annual game that was played between a team of college all-stars and the reigning NFL champions. McGee was elected captain of the College All-Stars for that game.
The hard-nosed guard was drafted in the second round of the 1960 NFL Draft by the Chicago Cardinals. He played three seasons, starting 36 games, before an injury forced him to retire. The end of his playing career, however, only served to be the starting point for an equally successful run as a college football coach and administrator.
He started by serving apprenticeships as an assistant coach at his alma mater under mentor Bill Murray at Duke from 1963-65 before moving on to Wisconsin and Minnesota. His first head coaching job came at East Carolina. After one season with the Pirates, he returned to Duke to lead the Blue Devils from 1971-78. He later served tenures as the athletic director at Cincinnati, Southern Cal and South Carolina.
McGee was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1991, adding to a list of honors that also include induction into the Duke and North Carolina Sports halls of fame.
“Coach McGee was a man we could all admire,” current Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “Obviously, he played the game at the highest level and had success as both a coach and administrator, but his integrity, kindness and leadership qualities commanded respect from everyone who knew him.”