By Samuel Njoku
Jameel McClain, ILB, #53
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Experience: 5 years
After falling short in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots, Jameel McClain was set to become a free agent for the first time in his career. After visiting the Denver Broncos back in March, it appeared as though the Ravens may have lost McClain for good, but good things come for those who wait, as Baltimore was able to lock up the young linebacker for three more seasons. It was widely assumed that McClain would start along side Ray Lewis to solidify the inside linebacker spots, but with Lewis out for the season, it appears that McClain will have to fill the void left by the future hall of famer. The odds of that occurring appear to be slim, but Jameel McClain has made a habit of beating the odds in the past.
Jameel McClain was raised in Philadelphia and attended high school at George Washington High School. He would play football and compete as a boxer. He recorded an astonishing 230 tackles as a linebacker for his high school, but it was his short career as a boxer that would pay dividends later in his career. With a record of 6-1, McClain participated in boxing events throughout the city. He would ultimately decide to attend Syracuse to play collegiate football.
In college, McClain had the same kind of success he had in high school. He finished his career with 170 tackles which included 11.5 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. He was named second-team All Big East and was a semi-finalist for the Ted Hendricks award (Best Defensive Lineman). Statistics such as these would garner him slight attention from the pro level, but not enough for him to get drafted.
The Baltimore Ravens, a team notorious for signing gems through undrafted free agency, took a chance on the former Orange linebacker. But his odds of him making the football team were slim. The perennial defensive powerhouse was loaded on defense. But McClain knew how to play football. And he knew how to fight. In 2008, McClain fought his way onto the 53-man roster. He was the only undrafted free agent to do so.
McClain would be brought on primarily for special-teams work. But McClain was not content. He would play his way onto the starting lineup with exceptional plays on defense. In limited work as a rookie, McClain would record 2.5 sacks, a blocked punt, and 2 safeties. The 2 safeties recorded in one season set a franchise record. The following year, McClain earned himself a starting spot on the roster. And three years later, the Ravens would resign Jameel to 10.5 million dollar contract that will keep him in Baltimore until 2015.
“In the back of my heart, I always knew that Baltimore was home,” McClain said after signing the contract. “What ultimately brought me back here was the city, the organization, the players, and the coaches.”
Coach Harbaugh was relieved to have the linebacker back for a few more years.
“He is a Raven. He is one of us,” Harbaugh stated. “He helps define what it means to be a Raven. Look at his character, look at his story, and look at what he has done. I just have so much respect for him, so much admiration for him as a person.”
When Jameel looks back on his accomplishments, he doesn’t look back at his time in Syracuse. He looks back at his boxing days in Philadelphia.
“My life has been one boxing match after another,” McClain says. “No matter what gets thrown at me, I keep fighting.”
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Ravens news, see CBS Sports Baltimore.
Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.