Football has been a part of Rolando McClain’s life since he was a freshman in high school. Just a teenager, he played tight end and linebacker like a player ready for the NFL. People knew McClain was something special during his senior year. Selected to play in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl as a senior, he was ready for the big stage.
An athletic scholarship to Alabama would be the pathway to one of the most successful linebackers to ever don the Crimson Tide.
Already having tremendous successes, he would shine bright in his first two years under Nick Saban at Alabama. During his Freshman and Sophomore seasons, he began a career that turned many eyes across the NFL. Compiling 170 tackles and earning two All-SEC selections, McClain had his sights set much higher than being a defensive star in a college uniform. All he needed was one more special season, and he would certainly be a sure-fire early round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft after his junior year.
He got that special season—the year that molded him from college stand-out, to NFL ready.
He tallied 105 tackles, 14.5 for a loss, four sacks, two interceptions, and the thing that mattered most… a National Championship. With that Championship came another honor— SEC Player of the Year. Rolando McClain had won the biggest award in the conference, and now was faced with the decision that would probably be the biggest of his life.
January 10, 2010 would be the defining moment in McClain’s life that every football player dreams of. Like his peers in peewee leagues, Rolando’s dream was to be selected in the NFL Draft and play on the biggest stage on earth. Most never would get this opportunity, but the reigning-SEC Player of the Year did. He in fact declared he would forgo his senior season as a member of the Crimson Tide, and enter the 2010 NFL Draft.
Fast forward to April 22, 2010—Rolando McClain sits on his couch, anxiously awaiting his phone to ring. One team is all he needed, one team to call and offer him a spot on the team. His life would be turned around forever, and his dream, like many others before him, would be recognized.
The Oakland Raiders would be that team. Even though many expected Oakland to sure up their offensive line with the 8th overall selection, they took a chance and drafted McClain. It was a dicey move for sure; time would tell whether it was worth the risk.
When McClain signed his rookie contract with the Raiders, he didn’t have any history of off-field issues. In fact, he established himself in some eyes, as a mature leader.
In his first two seasons as a Raider, he proved the experts right. His tackles were piling up, establishing dominance in the running game. Observers took note and began to see him as a player that could be great for years to come.
His image would drastically change in an instant, however, when the world found out about the incidents that occurred in late November.
On December 1, 2011, McClain, a budding NFL star, was arrested. He was taken into custody for multiple charges including firing a firearm in a non-permitted area, assault, and reckless endangerment. He would finish the 2011 season, but he would face an offseason that would scar his reputation.
Mid-May, McClain was found guilty of all charges, and was sentenced to 180 days in jail. He was freed on bond while the case was on appeal, which would be the case as the 2012 season started. In November, it was made public that the victim didn’t press charges, and McClain reached a settlement.
Another chance to start fresh was given to the linebacker, and he needed to rebuild his image on and off the field if he wanted to be successful again.
The chance he was given in November to start fresh as the charges were dropped, didn’t last long, as he yet again found trouble, this time on the field. On November 28th, just about two weeks after charges were dropped from the previous years’ incident, McClain was excused from a practice for conduct detrimental to the team.
The Raiders gave the young player another chance to prove himself, and he blew it. What started out to be the early stages of a seemingly great career, turned into a disaster for Oakland and McClain.
November 28th was indeed the last time McClain would wear the Raider uniform, and his image as a solid playmaker would be overshadowed by non-football related issues.
What would be next for the once promising linebacker?
Might his potential inspire a team to give him another chance after everything that he had gone through?
And that team, the Baltimore Ravens who signed the former SEC Player of the Year to a one-year, $700,000 contract effectively providing McClain the opportunity to start fresh, yet again.
Some might look at this as a dangerous move – with reason. Any time a player is given “another chance”, it comes with risks. McClain might not be able to get things together, and maybe he won’t go back to being what everyone knows he can be.
But what if he does?
Look at this as not just a football move, but a possible life-changing moment for Rolando McClain. Like the situation on draft day, he just needed one team, a team that would take a chance on him so that he could prove himself. The Ravens are giving him that opportunity, just like Oakland did on April 22, 2010.
This could be a big move. After all, football has been a part of McClain’s life since high school. Maybe we will get to see the true potential that he possesses.
Many won’t understand the move, but only Rolando McClain can decide what his future holds.
We’re rooting for you Rolando!
Welcome to the World Champion Baltimore Ravens.