Born in Memphis, he attended Tennessee State University as a double major in drama and history, then moved on to the NFL as a defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams.
After his football career, he became a character actor in the entertainment industry, appearing in more than 40 movies. His résumé includes Last Action Hero with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hard Times, Norma Rae, Red Dawn, Big Wednesday and F.I.S.T. with Sylvester Stallone, with whom he also appeared in Paradise Alley, Lock Up and Rocky II.
McRae also appeared in the 1989 James Bond film Licence to Kill as Sharkey, a close friend of Timothy Dalton’s Agent 007