Archive for Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Keegan: There’s life after football

June 4, 2008


James McClinton sat in the computer room at Wagnon Student Services Center, sheltered from the heat. He checked eBay to see if anyone had placed a charitable bid on his signed No. 93 game jersey, framed with two action photos and a plaque denoting his accomplishments as a Kansas University football player.

No bids. No phone messages from his agent informing him his goal of gaining an invitation to an NFL training camp had been fulfilled. No numbers about which to brag from his performance at the NFL scouting combine, least of all a 5.49 time in the 40-yard dash. No reassurances that teams that might otherwise be interested have decided the seizures he suffered no longer are an issue.

No need to worry about where James McClinton is headed. He's a winner, and if he doesn't get the chance he craves in the NFL, he'll find another way to spread his positive vibes, the way he did from his defensive tackle position for the Orange Bowl champions who went 12-1 a year ago.

McClinton, wearing his Orange Bowl ring, was asked what he sees himself doing if he doesn't make it in the NFL. He intercepted the question like he did that pass against Colorado.

"I don't see it that way," he said.

It's not on McClinton to consider what others think about whether it's time for him to forget his football dream. For athletes, the inner voice is the only one that can make that call.

Meanwhile, he's taking two courses in summer school. Once they are completed, by his calculation he will be 12 credits shy of a degree.

For the moment, the "athlete" half of student-athlete has been removed from his responsibilities, a reality that brings a hint of sadness into the life of an upbeat, spiritual man.

"I miss it," McClinton said. "I miss it now because the team workouts (have started). I miss being with the team, cracking jokes. I feel a little like an outcast, can't go to the meetings. And those Friday night meals were fun."

The biggest eater on the team?

"Probably John Larson," a smiling McClinton said of the senior defensive end.

McClinton checks his jersey again on eBay. Still no bids for the $500 item. None for Aqib Talib's, either. All the money, McClinton said, will go to "Nothing But Nets," a charitable organization that aids the fight against malaria in Africa.

Just months ago, crowds of 50,000-plus roared McClinton's every move. Now, no bids. By logging onto eBay and typing "James McClinton jersey," some wealthy KU football fan could make a bid and bring a smile to the face of a second-team All-American without a team. It would tell McClinton two things: First, he hasn't been forgotten. Second, he would know he had a hand in helping to fight malaria in Africa.

McClinton sounded optimistic about this coming fall's team, provided players get after it hard this summer.

"It's a year-round sport," McClinton said. "Very important workouts. You could sit out a week and be out of shape. This is the time you have to improve yourself."

Oh, how he would love to be out there in the morning heat, soaked in sweat, and inside the weight room in the afternoon, grunting his way through yet another rep.


cato_the_elder 9 years, 10 months ago

James, what about the CFL? Willie Pless tore it up, and you could too.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.