Four-week whirlwind: McKinnie-Harper details decision to pick CMU after earlier decommitment

Central Michigan cornerback Kyron McKinnie-Harper signs his national letter of intent to play for the Chippewas at Cass Tech High School on Dec. 19.

Kyron McKinnie-Harper sat at an elongated table with seven other prospects in the media center at Cass Tech High School in Detroit on Dec. 19.

Moments before he announced his college destination, the three-star cornerback took a deep breath, looked at the paperwork in front of him and crumpled one set.

Stapled tight, one group of papers committed himself to Central Michigan. The alternative was Toledo.

Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher saved McKinnie-Harper's announcement for last. He got up to the podium, flashed teammate Ormondell Dingle a smile, and went public with his decision to join the Chippewas, later explaining he squashed the Toledo paperwork prior to taking the stand.

The day before his choice was made, McKinnie-Harper's father, Myron Harper, went into his room at midnight. 

"What are you going to do?" his father asked.

"I don't know. I don't know," McKinnie-Harper answered.

The 2016 MHSAA state champion slept on his decision. When he woke up, CMU was on his mind and McKinnie-Harper trusted his gut.

At one point in McKinnie-Harper's recruitment, however, there wasn't a tough choice to make. He felt comfortable on a summer unofficial visit to CMU and made his commitment on July 23 – partly due to a close relationship with then-coach John Bonamego.

Bonamego, after a 1-11 season in 2018, was fired on Nov. 23. When he heard the news, McKinnie-Harper took a step back.

The four weeks that followed were like a whirlwind.

Central Michigan cornerback Kyron McKinnie-Harper crumples papers to play for Toledo at Cass Tech High School on Dec. 19. He later picked the Chippewas.

Once Jim McElwain was hired by CMU on Dec. 2, thoughts of committing back to CMU ran through McKinnie-Harper's mind. He narrowed his choices to Toledo and CMU and took official visits on Dec. 7 and Dec. 14, respectively.

Doing his due diligence as a father, Harper did extensive background research into McElwain's past coaching stops, which included successful stints at Colorado State and Florida as a head coach. 

In the 2018 season, McElwain was the wide receivers coach under Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, so Haper reached out to former Cass Tech star Donovan Peoples-Jones, who caught seven touchdowns this season for the Wolverines.

"He was like, 'He's a really good guy,'" he said of his conversation with Peoples-Jones. "Then coach Wilcher said the same. I knew about him from Florida because I follow them. I told (Kyron) maybe take a look at Central Michigan again."

McKinnie-Harper took his father's advice and opened up to the thought of being a student-athlete in Mount Pleasant.

CMU's battle for McKinnie-Harper was more than just getting him to recommit – it was keeping him from Toledo. When the cornerback was in The Glass City, he nearly joined coach Jason Candle's group.

"I felt like Toledo was home," he said. "Then, I took the visit to Central Michigan, and I felt like that was home.

"It was just the words of coach McElwain, to be honest."

McElwain remained honest with McKinnie-Harper, told him what he thought of the situation and explained he could get the prospect where he wanted to be on the football field and in life. Those words from CMU's new coach proved to make a difference.

"I compared both of them and figured (CMU) was a more comfortable place for me and my family," McKinnie-Harper added. "My family felt comfortable with (defensive backs) coach (Cory) Hall and the entire university."

Harper didn't directly talk with McElwain, but he spent time with Hall on CMU's home visit to see McKinnie-Harper. Hall told the cornerback's father the Chippewas would treat him well.

Once he checked off the parental boxes regarding CMU for a second time, Harper sat back and allowed McKinnie-Harper to make a final decision. 

"I know it's a good campus and atmosphere," Harper said. "He felt at home, and coach (Hall) said he'd take good care of my son since he will be two hours away. We felt good."

McKinnie-Harper will graduate from Cass Tech in May and arrive at Central Michigan in the summer. As a senior, he logged 32 tackles, 28 passes defended and six interceptions. He also had 23 receptions for 487 yards and nine touchdowns.

McElwain plans to work with McKinnie-Harper on the defensive side of the ball at cornerback to start, but he is well aware of his ability to develop into a two-way star. McKinnie-Harper is also interested in playing offense and defense down the road. 

"He's shown a lot of versatility on both sides of the ball," McElwain said. "He has very good feet, and he's another guy that brings great athleticism and length into the secondary."

With the recent departures of starting cornerbacks Sean Bunting and Xavier Crawford to the NFL draft, McKinnie-Harper is ready to compete for a starting spot in 2019.

"The coaching staff has a great plan for us," he said. "Coming in with two corners leaving, that gives me an opportunity to come in and play.

"There's a great plan ahead."