Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Former Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Rolando McClain announced his sudden retirement at just 23 years old this week. The troubled linebacker was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
He spent three years with the Raiders before being cut this offseason, which had more to do with his off the field antics than his on the field play. A month ago, he signed with the Baltimore Ravens as he looked to put his troubled past in Oakland behind him.
A short time after signing with the Ravens, McClain was once again arrested in his hometown of Decatur, Alabama. It was his third arrest in the last 17 months, and it put his future with the Ravens in serious doubt.
Yesterday, McClain announced that he would be retiring from the NFL, although what he said in a statement today made it sound more like a break than a retirement.
In a statement, McClain said “I love football, but I have decided at this time it is in my best interest to focus on getting my personal life together.”
McClain received a lot of vitriol from fans and media alike when he announced his retirement from the NFL, with many pundits saying how much talent he let go to waste. And to this point, they would be correct. McClain came to the NFL with enormous expectations after three successful seasons at Alabama.
His play on the field with the Raiders didn’t quite live up to the lofty standards that were set when he was dominating college gridirons, but it was off the field problems that always kept standing in the way of him becoming the player most expected him to be. A retirement, at age 23, is not what anybody had in mind when he was drafted three years ago.
But, then again, this doesn’t sound like an official retirement. It sounds like a break until he can get his personal life together. It sounds like the first mature decision that McClain has made since he left Alabama a year early to go to the NFL Draft.
Getting his personal life together will be a full time job, and he knows to fully commit himself to doing so, he wouldn’t be able to give football everything he had.
McClain went on to say in a statement that “I am very grateful for the opportunity [ the Ravens] gave me and wish them the best of luck in the future. God willing, maybe I’ll play for them one day.”
That certainly doesn’t sound like someone who has decided to hang up the pads for good. His off the field issues have held him back on the field, and if he can get those issues fixed, then he could very well make a successful comeback to the NFL in the future.
There’s no denying that the talent is there. McClain is one of the best, most instinctive linebackers I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching at the Capstone. He had an innate ability to diagnose plays before they happened. He was an unquestioned leader during his three years in Tuscaloosa.
In 2009, McClain spearheaded Alabama’s defense that led the team to the National Championship. He was a unanimous first team All American, and earned the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker.
At 23, McClain is still very young, so he could take a couple of years off and still have many years ahead of him in the NFL. It will be an uphill battle for him, and nothing over the last few years suggests that he will be able to stay out of trouble off the field in order to make a successful comeback on the field.
There aren’t many who are betting on him to do it, and I’m definitely in the minority in thinking that he can. Maybe it’s for selfish reasons because when McClain has his head straight, there aren’t many that I enjoy watching more.
Here’s hoping we get to see Rolando McClain play football again. Here’s hoping he gets his life together.
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