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Troy State’s McClain always had something to say to press

Sports Editor

The report that former Troy State linebacker Jimmy McClain signed a free-agent contract with the NFL’s newest franchise, the Houston Texans, came as welcome bit of information to the TSU coaching staff and fans alike.

But while McClain will certainly be missed by Larry Blakeney and defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt, the biggest void will be felt by the state’s southeastern media.

Jimmy McClain was a good quote waiting to happen.

The Enterprise native logged 38 tackles as a true freshman in 1998, doubled that output in 1999 with 79 and led the team with 107 total stops a year later. He was the ESPN/USA Today National Defensive Player of the Week in ’99 when he took two interceptions back for touchdowns against South Florida.

He was equally at home around the lights of the television camera or a reporter’s tape recorder. McClain said what he felt. He spoke with a deep voice and had a hip-hop approach toward talking about the game he loved, rattling off well-thought out answers while waiting for the chance to jump on something said and give that week’s upcoming opponent some poster board material to think about.

McClain wasn’t intimidated by Nebraska. Or Miami. Or Mississippi State. He certainly wasn’t intimidated by Middle Tennessee, (although maybe he should have been after the Blue Raiders carved up the Trojans, 54-17). Even after that beating McClain was lighthearted enough to say: "Man, Charles Henderson High School could have beat us tonight."

The 54-point spread the bookies gave Nebraska over the Trojans to start the season was a personal "insult" to McClain. When Jacksonville State was set to come to Troy last season and bring alone female kicker Ashley Martin, McClain referred to her as "fair game" if she stepped on the football field for a point after attempt.

McClain grew up with three brothers. One, Antonio, also played for the Trojans. Three boys can get into everything. Perhaps that’s where Jimmy McClain picked up his fire, his need to compete, his desire to be the best and expect no less from his teammates. He had 150 tackles his senior season at Enterprise and was first-team all-state that same year, 1997. He even took first-team honors as a baseball player the following spring.

Jimmy McClain holding a bat? Jimmy McClain decked out in cotton from head to toe?

Nah.

Baseball moves too slow. That had to be what it was. America’s game, at times, is just a little bit too predictable. McClain preferred chaos on the cow pasture; 11 on 11, quick and violent. With apologies to Robert Burns, football is a game where the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Where’s the ball? Who cares? Just hit somebody.

McClain kept his hair knotted in dreadlocks and had he played football without a helmet on, he

would have resembled the Predator, swooping down on some unsuspecting quarterback to snap some necks. He moved from weak-side linebacker to strong-side attacker during his senior season at Troy State and although his tackle numbers suffered a bit (83 in 2002), McClain was still the Trojans’ leader on defense.

McClain will be given his shot to make the Houston Texans. And it’s a pretty good shot considering the Texans had only signed three other linebackers besides McClain on Monday.

It was his size that kept McClain from being drafted.

Here’s hoping he makes it in Houston.

Because I would just love to read what he has to say about the NFL.