Although UCF running back Greg McCrae saw some playing time during his 2017 freshman season, it wasn't until the 2018 spring game when he really announced his presence to Knight Nation. That's when McCrae stood out among UCF's bevy of talented offensive weapons, scoring twice and recording one other highlight that neither he nor safety Richie Grant will probably forget.
"I just told him to get out of the way," McCrae said with a smile following the game. "Just get out of the way. Then next time, it won't happen."
In running over Grant, McCrae displayed power that belies his rather small stature at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds. There was an unquantifiable amount of anger delivered in that play, stored up over years of being doubted. McCrae was a walk-on with UCF and buried on the Knights' running back depth chart during his freshman year. But he kept working, kept striving toward a goal. And he achieved it this summer.
It was July 31, the final day of summer vacation for the UCF Football team, so to speak. Head coach Josh Heupel stood in front of the room during this full team meeting, preparing his players for the following morning's first day of fall camp. McCrae was near the back of the room, just chilling, he says.
Then officers from the UCF Police Department showed up.
"Whoa, who are they here for?" McCrae thought to himself.
There were here for him.
"Is there a Gregory McCrae here?" one of the officers asked the room.
Chill, gone. "I'm kind of lost," McCrae recalls. He gets up from his seat, meets the officers at the front of the room and asks what he is being arrested for.
Overpaid parking tickets.
Wait, what? Overpaid?
"Yeah, overpaid parking tickets," McCrae said.
OK. I'll let him tell the rest of the story.
"I'm shocked. I'm like, 'woah, parking tickets.' All of a sudden, Coach Heupel, he stands over there and he says, 'Will this scholarship cover those parking tickets?' All I could do is smile.
"The whole room went crazy. I felt like they were more excited for me than I was for me. They all ran up to me. That's how close this team is; when one person's happy, the whole team is happy."
Y’all had me scared man. I really appreciate it though. https://t.co/99JzoFGzJ1— Greg (@NikeheadGreg) August 1, 2018
McCrae admitted that he shed a few tears in that moment. His mom cried when he broke the news to her that night. His father was so elated, he couldn't sleep. McCrae said receiving that scholarship was a "surreal moment."
"Obviously, I'm an undersized back," he said. "Not a lot of people gave me a chance. Walked on here and I've been trying to show that I could play regardless. Not a lot of people took a chance on me, and this team finally gave me a chance with a scholarship."
But McCrae knows his work is far from complete. The spring game showing was impressive. The scholarship was validating. However, he says a chip remains on his shoulder.
"I just want to show everybody that that's not all of what I have. I'm more than a one-performance type of guy. ... The work continues to go on and on until I leave this place and even on after that. I want to show people that I was worth that scholarship and that I'm worth much more."