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Playoff Bound: Aggie Alumni in NFL Championship Hunt

01/10/2022

Mac McCain III, left, of the Philadelphia Eagles and Brandon "Big Stuff" Parker of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Over the past 12 months, North Carolina A&T Aggies have gone to the women’s NCAA basketball tournament, the NCAA bowling tournament, the NCAA track championships and the Tokyo Olympics, bringing home three medals in the process. 

Add two accomplishments from the National Football League to that list of successes: Both Brandon “Big Stuff” Parker of the Las Vegas Raiders and Mac McCain of the Philadelphia Eagles will be participating in the NFL playoffs, giving Aggie fans a weekend of nationally broadcast pro football featuring A&T alumni (Jan. 15-16).

The two along with two alumni from South Carolina State represent the most historically black college or university (HBCU) grads from any single campuses in this season’s playoffs (Grambling, NCCU and Morgan State each have one representative).   

Both men also represent some of A&T’s most important academic strengths, and have strong career potential beyond the NFL. McCain holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from A&T in agribusiness, while Parker has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.   

brandon-parker.pngStill, their road to the playoffs gave each of them new mountains to climb. Chosen by the Raiders in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Parker has been a major presence in the team’s offensive line for four years – at 6’8, 305, he is a major presence anywhere -- but emerged this year as starting right tackle early in the season.

Parker grew into the role, firmly establishing himself in November when he led the offensive line with an 85.0 grade in the Raiders’ 32-13 loss to Cincinnati. The next month, he bested that performance with an 85.8 grade in a pivotal 17-13 win against Denver, part of a four-game win streak that propelled the Raiders into the playoffs.

In Las Vegas’ 35-32 electrifying overtime win Sunday over the Los Angeles Chargers, Parker was at his best as a run blocker, paving the way for running back Joshua Jacobs to sprint to 132 yards on the ground. Parker also made a key recovery of a fumble by quarterback Derek Carr to keep a critical drive alive late in the game, and gave placekicker Daniel Carson a wall of protection as he kicked a 47-yard game winner.

mac-mccain-iii.pngIn Philadelphia, the cross-country roller coaster ride that has been the 2021-22 season for Mac McCain III continued. McCain originally signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent last spring, was released in late August but subsequently signed to the Bronco’s practice squad.

In early September, he was claimed by the Philadelphia Eagles and signed to that team’s active roster, seeing his first NFL action in the Eagles’ loss to Dallas in Week 3. He was released Nov. 9, and re-claimed the next day by the Broncos, only to be waived two weeks later.

Twenty-four hours later, he was back with the Eagles, and this time for good – first signed to the practice squad, and then elevated to the active roster in the final game of the season. He saw action in the second half of the Eagles’ loss to Dallas, making a key open-field tackle to prevent a touchdown, getting an assist in the next series and grading out at a respectable 67.9.

Despite the loss, McCain and his Eagle teammates will now take on the reigning Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the opening “wild card” round of the playoffs on Sunday, Jan. 16, at 1 p.m., on Fox. The day before, Parker and the Raiders will take on the Cincinnati Bengals at 4:30 p.m. on NBC.

Just two weeks later, Aggies will have a second reason to celebrate the McCain name, when A&T marks the 62nd anniversary of the A&T Four, led by Mac's grandfather, the late Franklin McCain, who passed away in 2014. A&T's annual commemorative event recognizing their activism, which changed the course of the civil rights movement, on Feb. 1.