The Raiders took star Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, and after a number of legal problems and some uninspired play, he retired last May to get his personal life together, and soon after, he returned to school in Tuscaloosa.
And in an interview with ESPN, McClain sheds a harsh light on why he decided to retire when he did.
"I was feeling like Aaron Hernandez or something," McClain said. "Like I just wanted to kill somebody."
Furthermore, ESPN's Seth Wickersham writes, "He remembers watching Hernandez get hauled out of his house in handcuffs, later charged with first-degree murder, and being genuinely scared he'd end up the same way."
Though he already had flamed out with the Raiders before he signed with the Ravens this past offseason, McClain decided his best bet was to leave the game and return to finish his degree in family financial planning (he's 16 credits shy). At the same time, he also says he'll "probably" return to the NFL next season.
"Football was my mask. It was the cover-up," McClain said. "You got problems -- go break something, work it out that way. I never really dealt with the problem."
More from the story:
He left [Alabama] after three years, expecting NFL money to solve his family's problems. He got drafted, went to Oakland and almost immediately wished he'd never left Tuscaloosa. So here he is, trying to re-create something that he's realizing no longer exists. McClain and [Nick] Saban talk only occasionally, and Saban didn't reply to interview requests for this story. Shortly after McClain returned to Tuscaloosa, the coach did introduce McClain to a therapist. They spoke a few times, but McClain hasn't worked up the courage to commit. "I'm scared of what he might figure out about me," he says with a forced laugh.
What does he not want to know? "I don't know if I'm ready to know, man, why I was so angry. I don't know if I'm ready to know what triggers my anger. I just feel like I figured out on my own how to stay calm, how to enjoy life, how to be happy. Eventually, I might find the source of the problem, get over it. But right now …"
He sounds like someone who's already had counseling, with self-awareness and smarts that are rare in any 24-year-old. And yet there's another piece of him that seems to drift.
Make sure to go back and read the entire ESPN.com article. Wickersham tells a fantastic story of coach Nick Saban and McClain dropping f-bombs on each other during a practice (Saban benched him for five games), how McClain seems to have a nonchalant attitude toward guns and driving, and why he hated so much of his pro football experience.
And it's a good thing McClain is so self-aware. Otherwise, we might have been writing about McClain in an entirely different context at some point in the future.
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