May 18, 2024

During the summer, 6-foot-5 basketball standout Romello McRae of Fairfax High practiced with the football team hoping to make his debut in the sport. Then his mother wouldn’t let him play. He spent the next 10 weeks serving as the ball boy.

Last week, his mother changed her mind.

“She saw how passionate I was,” McRae said. “It’s the end of the season. She didn’t expect me to get in.”

On McRae’s first football play ever in the second half of a City Section playoff game last week against Panorama, he caught a 20-yard touchdown pass.

“In all honesty, it was as if everything around me disappeared,” he said. “That’s how high my adrenaline was. I don’t remember having any defender by me. I remember the ball going into my hands and looking at the ball in shock as my legs carried me into the end zone.”

McRae barely showed up in time to be on the Fairfax bus on Friday night because he was finishing basketball practice. He got on the bus in his basketball practice jersey and shorts, then changed later.

After scoring the touchdown, McRae said his mother, Ebony Robinson, was smiling.

“She was like, ‘Damn, I didn’t expect you to get a a touchdown.’”

McRae’s brother, Robert, who attends Dartmouth and won a City basketball title at Fairfax, didn’t believe the touchdown until video was sent.

It’s a tribute to McRae that he stayed as a ball boy waiting for his chance. He has been a basketball starter for three years and has 4.3 grade-point average.

“I just wanted to be part of the team,” he said. “I wanted to play so bad. If I wasn’t going to play, I wanted some inclusion on the team.”

When he was finally allowed to play, teammates couldn’t wait to see him succeed.

“Since the time I told them I was going to play, they were going, ‘Mello, we got to get you a touchdown,’” he said.

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