Former Kansas University defensive lineman James McClinton has found a home in the Arena Football League.
McClinton, who played at KU from 2004-07 and helped guide the Jayhawks to a victory in the 2008 Orange Bowl, is listed on the roster of the AFL’s Chicago Rush for the 2010 season.
Although he has spent the past several months working out to stay in football shape, McClinton said the call from Chicago caught him off guard.
“I don’t know how my agent and Chicago got in contact,” McClinton said. “But when he called me it was unexpected. I hadn’t talked to my agent in a long time.”
That didn’t stop him from jumping on the opportunity to join a professional football team.
“I gave him the go-ahead, I prayed about it and it’s a good situation,” McClinton said. “They put a good offer on the table.”
According to McClinton’s agent, Matt Striegel, who works for Ascent Sports in Boulder, Colo., that offer was no accident.
“I just know they’re very excited to have him,” Striegel said. “They’ve seen a lot of good game film on him, and they view him as a guy they’re going to rely on heavily in their defense.”
McClinton, who recorded 90 tackles — 25 for loss — and 8.5 sacks during his final two seasons as a Jayhawk, said his role with the Rush was outlined clearly. The Chicago coaches want him to be the same disruptive force he was at Kansas.
SI.com, which analyzed dozens of draft prospects prior to the ’08 NFL Draft, wrote the following about McClinton: “...is a hard-charging defensive lineman who penetrates well. He has the intensity and mentality to earn a backup spot at the next level.”
That’s still the goal for McClinton today.
“I just have to continue to be positive, keep the faith and continue to work and keep fighting,” he said. “Just show ’em that I’m still able to make plays. I’m still hungry. My stomach is growling.”
After a one-year hiatus in 2009, the AFL makes its return to action thanks in large part to a contract with the NFL Network, which will broadcast several AFL games this season. The 2010 season is scheduled to begin the weekend of April 2-4, when the 15-team league will kick off its 16-game schedule followed by playoffs and the Arena Bowl, which run through the third week in August.
“This is just one step along the way to the ultimate goal of playing in the NFL,” Striegel said. “I know James is excited about the opportunity. That’s for sure.”
As for his thoughts about the new faces around his old stomping grounds, McClinton sounded like a man who would’ve enjoyed crossing paths with KU’s new football coach.
“I really like Turner Gill,” McClinton said. “I love (former KU) coach (Mark) Mangino, I was blessed to be coached under him, but I was also blessed to be underneath Turner Gill, as a man of faith, even before he became the head coach at Kansas.
“It seems like he’s a players coach, and what he did at Buffalo I’m sure he’ll be able to apply at KU and get them competing for conference championships as well. Maybe more.”
Safety snags offer
First came red-shirt freshman wide receiver Chris Omigie. Could a player who spent part of his high school career covering the KU wideout be next? Rivals.com is reporting that Kansas has offered a scholarship to Devonta Sparks, a safety from Arlington (Texas) Martin High, the same school that produced Omigie.
Sparks, 6-foot, 200 pounds, also has received offers from Arizona, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Purdue, TCU, Texas A&M and Tulsa. He told Rivals that KU assistant coach Aaron Stamn has informed him that the Jayhawks plan to add just two safeties from the Class of 2011. Of the 40 players in that class that KU has extended offers to thus far, just two are safeties.
Sparks, who finished 2009 with 102 tackles and two interceptions, said he planned to get more information about KU from Omigie and that he hoped to visit Kansas this spring.