Whether the opposition was running up the gut, dinking-and-dunking or airing it out, there No. 51 in Lumberton High’s maroon and gold was — finishing off a gang-tackle, stuffing a runner dead in his tracks or batting away a pass.
McGill, a senior captain for the Pirates, was just striving to accomplish the same thing snap after snap. His production earned him The Robesonian’s Defensive Player of the Year award for the 2012 season.
“My main goal is don’t let anybody get past me,” McGill said, a 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker. “If you come to me, that’s where you stop.”
At season’s end, McGill finished with over 100 tackles (10-plus per game), racking up double-digit tackles in all but three games, including a season-high 16-tackle effort in a 30-17 loss to Richmond County on Oct. 12.
McGill even found the end zone this season, stripping a runner and trucking in a 35-yard fumble recovery for a score in Lumberton’s 20-14 win over Athens Drive on Sept. 14.
For McGill, a three-year varsity starter, being a team captain, key cog, and arguably the heartbeat for Lumberton defense were responsibilities he proudly shouldered with gusto.
“You got to take control of the team and set the example for everybody,” McGill said. “You can’t let anyone slack off. You have to watch out for everybody. My mindset was stay aggressive, do your best, have fun and just play.”
While holding that mantra, McGill and the Pirates finished 5-6 overall and fifth in the stacked Southeastern Conference. A notable highlight came in the regular season-finale when Lumberton snapped a three-game skid to Purnell Swett with a 42-18 Backyard Brawl win at Alton G. Brooks Stadium. McGill had one of the best individual performances of his career, collecting 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks and four tackles-for-loss.
With the win over rival Swett, Lumberton secured a berth in the state playoffs where it was knocked out of the first round by Jack Britt. Britt eventually worked its way to the 4A state championship game where it fell to Butler.
It was an especially emotional end to the season for McGill and the Pirates who were playing in the finale of Mike Brill’s six-year career at LHS.
“He means a lot to me,” McGill said of Brill, who in six seasons won 43 games for Lumberton. “I did everything he said. I gave him my trust, and he said if you do what he tells you to do and follow the system, it will work.”
Adding to McGill’s heavy-hearted senior season, his older brother Rufus Arthur “Sonny” McGill II, 19, passed away on Nov. 1 — the day before the Jack Britt game — as a result of injuries he suffered from a car accident in mid-October.
“From then on, that’s when I was trying to play my hardest,” McGill said. “I just played the rest of the season for him.”