When the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday, as many as five cornerbacks could come off the board in the first round. Three of them -- among the highest-rated of the class -- have especially illustrious bloodlines: Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn and Asante Samuel Jr. are all sons of former NFL Pro Bowlers. But there's another corner in this draft whose family ties might top them all.
His name is Zech McPhearson. If you don't know the McPhearsons, you might want to.
The Texas Tech senior was a Penn State commit coming out of Maryland, where he drew offers from Alabama, California, Pittsburgh and Ohio State among others. After two seasons and All-Big 12 honors as the Red Raiders' top cover man, he might be one of the most underrated prospects of his position. The Athletic's Dane Brugler believes McPhearson is "going widely overlooked" despite a resume and skill set that suggest he'll compete for starting reps. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah calls him "ultra-twitchy and competitive," crowning him a "great option" in the third-round range.
Just as impressive: A family tree that would seem to make McPhearson one of the safest bets of the draft.
It's not often you're one of eight kids -- seven of them boys. But it's even more unusual when all seven siblings make college sports their athletic floor. And that's not even accounting for Mom and Dad.
Just see if you can keep up: Zech (short for Zechariah) is the son of Gerrick and Kim McPhearson. Gerrick played defensive back at Boston College, coming out of school alongside future Super Bowl champion Bill Romanowski, before earning a tryout with the Patriots in 1988. Kim played running back and offensive line for the Baltimore Burn of the former National Women's Football League.
His siblings? There's:
- Gerrick Jr., who played cornerback at Maryland, where he was clocked as one of the fastest players in school history, then played a season with the Giants as a 2006 seventh-round pick
- Derrick, who played wide receiver at Illinois and Bowie State before a 2009 stint in minor league baseball within the Brewers system
- Emmanuel, who played defensive back at New Mexico
- Matthew Ezekiel, who went in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB Draft and spent six years with minor league affiliates of the Diamondbacks and Yankees; he's now following Zech's footsteps as a redshirt freshman cornerback at Texas Tech
- Jeremiah, who played CB at Indiana University of Pennsylvania
- Joshua, who played running back behind Saquon Barkley at Penn State, then with the CFL's Roughriders in 2018
- Kimberley, who plays soccer for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
We talk aplenty in NFL circles about star siblings: The Mannings, the Watts, the Barbers, and so forth. But McPhearson enters the pros with his own spin on athletic heritage. It almost seems more likely that 10 athletes of this caliber would be unrelated and just happen to share the same last name. Or that the McPhearsons grew up eating the most special Wheaties to ever hit the market.
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Either way, when Zech hears his name called, you can count on at least one household -- one very large household -- making some serious noise. In the spirit of that forthcoming celebration, CBS Sports spoke with a whole crop of McPhearsons -- Zech included -- to prepare for the family's big day:
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How do you believe the family has influenced Zech's journey to the NFL?
Gerrick: We are a sports family, and it's always been a part of our family dynamics. Zech has been the beneficiary of a plethora of experiences from his older siblings and has applied what he learned to his life. He is an old man in many ways.
Emmanuel: ZMac, respectfully, was in a very prime spot. Being the youngest of seven boys, he had a great opportunity to learn from both the good and bad of us all. ZMac is what I like to (call) the "complete McPhearson." He possesses a little trait of all the brothers before him. I believe he did a great job of learning from our mistakes and (staying) focused to make sure he did not make the same.
Kim: Family has always been a huge influence in Zech's life! Zechariah is an observer and an absorber. He sees and takes in the good that his siblings have to offer and uses it to benefit him ... They all are very competitive, especially when it comes to running. All of them want to beat Gerrick Jr., for he is and has always been the fastest ever! They even compete on who has traveled to the most cities, states and countries.
Kimberley: Zech has been very open to looking at us and learning from each and every one of us. He's always been able to eat the meat and spit out the bone.
Which of the McPhearson siblings get confused the most?
Gerrick: That's in the eye of the beholder, because they all have similar characteristics.
Kim: I think Emmanuel and Gerrick Jr. are the ones who get confused the most.
Emmanuel: Joshua and Matthew.
Jeremiah: I think we all get confused equally. Some of us look like some of us.
Kimberley: Our family holds 10 unique individuals, all with different personalities. Zech and my second-oldest brother, Derrick, having very similar body types causes many to get them confused. Some days, I will look at the throwback pictures and think it is ZMac, but it's our older brother.
At what point during Zech's journey were you convinced he was going to the NFL?
Gerrick: I knew Zech had potential after his freshman and sophomore year in college, when he was able to consistently defend some of his teammates that went on to play in the NFL.
Kim: During Zech's last year playing for Penn State, I saw Zechariah's performance on the field as phenomenal. That's when I was convinced that Zech was NFL-ready.
Joshua: I knew Zech was going to the NFL when I saw his potential in high school.
Jeremiah: After he transferred from PSU, the moment he put his name in the transfer portal.
What is your earliest or favorite memory of Zech, either on or off the field?
Gerrick: My mind goes back to when Zech was playing 6-8 tackle football, and his team had a playoff game on a cold November day. I can still see him crying tears throughout the game saying his hands were cold.
Kim: When Zech was about 3 years old, he would put on his dad's suit jacket and tie and say, "When I get big, I'm going to work like Daddy."
Emmanuel: When Zech was about 4 or 5 years old, he would eat a spoonful of peanut butter, believing it would give him a boost of strength. After he ate the spoonful, he would then climb to the top of the fridge and jump off! We also had a green Astro van growing up. When ZMac was a very small child, he would finish his bottles, then throw them out the car window while we drove. Repeatedly.
Kimberley: Zech and I are a year and a half apart, so there are so many memories that I have with him ... One that I will never forget is my first day of high school ... He kept me close and didn't want anyone to approach me or even look at me. At the time I didn't like it because it didn't make sense, but every day (now) I appreciate his protection and unconditional love. I call him my twin ... When he left for his first year at PSU, I slept in his bed for two weeks. I missed him so much.
Jeremiah: Zech was probably about 2 or 3. We had this white, foldable table in our living room ... all the while the table had items missing, and as we looked around the table, we saw footprints and knew it was ZMac.
Joshua: My earliest memory of Zech was when we would come home from church and he would throw his bottle out of the window on the highway.
Zech: Some of my favorite memories growing up with my family are the backyard baseball games we used to have. Just remembering my grandma, mom and sister playing along with us always brings a smile to my face. Also the yearly Turkey Bowl we used to have with our neighborhood friends is a memory never to be forgotten.
When Zech's name is called during the draft, how will you embrace the moment?
Kimberley: I know I will laugh, scream, shed some tears, and maybe even run around the block going crazy. But that's just the type of sister I am for all of my brothers.
Gerrick: We will support Zech and embrace the time together as a family at home. He has been playing football since he was 5 years old, and it's a honor for him to be at this point of consideration by the NFL!
Zech: Being drafted would be an honor. I have been working my whole life for that moment and possibly hearing my name called will be one of my greatest accomplishments. I don't talk much, but I truly believe I am a contender for one of the top DBs in this class. My film, stats, and versatility back that up.
What's something that most fans, scouts, teams probably don't know about Zech?
Gerrick: That although Zech has a quiet demeanor, he will rip the tongue out of a tiger. He is a ferocious competitor and can't stand losing.
Kim: Most people don't know that Zech is a God-fearing young man who loves all people but really enjoys working with children.
Emmanuel: ZMac was a really good baseball player. Good enough to play at the professional level one day if he continued playing.
Jeremiah: He is the only sibling with no middle name.
Joshua: Most scouts don't know that Zech is better at baseball than football, in my opinion.
Kimberley: He comes off very quiet and observant, but once he is comfortable, he's a goofball and brings so much positivity. Since he's been young, his teammates would always tell me how funny he is, and how great his personality is. Most of all, he is a leader on and off the field, and that shows in his character ... (Oh, and) he used to wear tighty-whities for years! He didn't stop until the 12th grade, and I would always tease him about it. We used to call him Steve Urkel for years.
Zech: When I first started really playing football, I watched a ton of Trumaine Johnson and Joe Haden. Both are really smart, savvy, athletic ball players that have been models for my game.
Obviously you'll root for Zech wherever he goes, but what would be your ideal NFL destination for him?
Emmanuel: Vegas, Baltimore or Florida!
Kim: My ideal NFL destination for Zech would be the Baltimore Ravens or the Washington Football Team because it's close to home, but at the end of the day, it's all about Zech.
Jeremiah: I'm gonna root for Zech wherever he goes! But I would like to see him go to Jacksonville. Florida, weather, and it's a great place to be!
Kimberley: Whew! I would love to see ZMac in purple and black representing home. It's always been a dream to have one of my brothers be a part of the Ravens family. It would be great to have the family at every home game going crazy cheering him on and repping Baltimore.
Joshua: If I could choose an ideal NFL team for Zech to play for, it would be the Cowboys. I love how the organization operates and how they take care of their players and staff. They are very invested.
Gerrick: Not to sound cliche, but the ideal destination for Zech is any NFL team that's looking for a legit cornerback that will outwork everyone, consistently defend his position and be an enhancement to the team on and off the field.
What's your advice to Zech at this exciting stage of his life?
Gerrick: Stay humble and stay hungry and, equally as important, always respect mankind.
Kim: My advice to my son is for him to continue to put the Lord first, and stay humble!
Emmanuel: Continue to do the things that allowed you to get to this point in your life. Keep laser focus. Most importantly, keep God first and save your chicken.
Joshua: My advice to Zechariah is don't let anything weigh you down. Live in the moment! The past is the past and you have the opportunity to control this narrative. Focus was essential to getting you here, and focus will keep you.
Jeremiah: As a big brother, I would tell him to keep going forward -- keep his same mentality and mindset but just always add more wisdom and keep God first in his life, and all will be well.
Kimberley: To my dear brother, stay true to yourself as you have always done your whole life. You have made it this far. Remain solid. Continue to keep God first and always trust His promises. In all that you do, keep Him at the center of it all. I love you, shuga. I'm so proud of you.
Zech: What excites me most is my new transition, my new season in life. To know that I'm walking on that path God has predestined for me, before I even knew it, gets me going! I am ready and prepared to take this next step.