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It’s not often that you hear an NFL player call himself “not the most athletic.”
That’s why I was surprised when I saw this tweet from Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain last week:
“I’m not the most athletic I’m not the smartest. But YOU will NOT out work me!! You will not have more drive, more passion then I have”
McClain is a 6-foot-1, 245-pound undrafted free agent out of Syracuse. His NFL Scouting Combine numbers actually tell the story of a player who is more athletic than McClain is giving himself credit for.
He ran a 4.74 second, 40-yard dash at the combine and put up 24 bench-press reps. A 4.74 would have tied McClain for 15th among all linebackers at this year’s combine. His 24 bench-press reps would have been tied for 11th.
As far as intelligence, McClain’s one of the most articulate guys in the locker room. So I’m not sure where he’s getting the “I’m not the smartest,” stuff.
Anyway, the tweet got me thinking about other Ravens who may not be the most athletically gifted players (keep in mind this is comparatively speaking because they’re all superb athletes if they’re in the NFL), but have more than made up for it with hard work and dedication:
C Matt Birk
FB Vonta Leach
LB Ray Lewis
SS Bernard Pollard
G/T Marshal Yanda
You may be surprised that I included a Hall of Famer in Lewis on here.
But remember, Lewis fell to the back of the first round because of a lack of size. His desire has always made up for that, and the impeccable shape that he keeps his body in has maximized its potential.
It all goes to the larger point that athleticism is just ONE part of what makes a great football player. And it leads me to this quote from Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees on the three things he expects out of a defensive player:
“No. 1, you’ve got to be tough to play defense,” he said. “No. 2, you’ve got to know what to do. No. 3, you’ve got to give great effort. Now, in none of those three did I say anything about athletic ability. Now, if you add athletic ability under that, you’ve got a Pro Bowler.”