He wishes he was here to watch his son run track and study criminal justice at Appalachian State University.
“It would’ve meant a lot to him,” said McRae, a Red Springs graduate who recently received an athletic scholarship to ASU. “He always said he wanted me to be a athlete in college.”
Marshall was 5 years old when he last saw his father alive.
Marshall McRae was murdered in the front yard of his home on Daniel McLeod Road in 1999 while his son watched the horror unfold from the porch.
According to a story published in The Robesonian in 2006, authorities said McRae was gunned down in his driveway in Red Springs after a car pulled up and a conversation took place.
Timothy, Charles and Richard Campbell have since been sentenced to life in prison in connection with the murder.
“It was a mentally tough experience seeing something like that,” McRae said. “He always said he’d like to see me play in college. Those images are hard to erase.”
Red Springs track coach Terrence Semple, a former resource officer at the school, says McRae has matured from introvert to budding athlete over the last two years.
“I looked at a kid loaded with talent but lacking confidence,” he said. “Christian and I have had a lot of 1-on-1 time together and got it all worked out.”
McRae says the death of his father, socially, shut down his life. School wasn’t important and goals seemed meaningless. He needed guidance.
“Coach taught me a lot about myself,” McRae said. “He believed in me and saw potential. Before him, I never had that in my life.”
Semple says McRae did most of the work.
“He’s a great young man when you get to know him,” Semple said. “He has a lot going for him. When he goes off to school, I’ll miss our conversations about life.”
Earlier this summer at a state meet in Greensboro, McRae was introduced to ASU Track and Field Director John Weaver.
McRae is one of the Red Devils’ fastest runners and has a 42-inch vertical leap.
He hadn’t thought twice about Boone before hearing from the veteran coach.
“I had only heard how cold it was up there,” McRae said. “I’ve never even seen the university, but I’m excited.”
McRae’s older sisters, Deanna and Marsha, each ran track at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University. Along with Semple, they helped formed Thoroughbred Elite, an AAU track team based in Robeson County.
Semple says most of the team’s travel roster is made up of locals with a few runners from Fayetteville.
“Our philosophy is to dominate on the track and in the classroom,” Semple said. “We stress how important school work is. Marshall was one of our go-to guys.”
Semple started the program in 2009 and says it has helped establish “a pipeline” with college coaches. Thoroughbred Elite runners train with some of the state’s top high school athletes in a competitive environment.
“In track years, Marshall’s still an infant,” Semple said. "Joining our team was the start. He’s only touched the surface on weight and flexibility training.
“There’s no telling how far he can go with this.”
McRae reports to campus in two weeks.
Staff writer Brad Crawford can be reached at (910) 272-6119 or at firstname.lastname@example.org