McClain still trying to prove Panthers wrong

McClain still trying to prove Panthers wrong
June 5, 2013, 9:00 am
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Right when it happened, Terrell McClain was more shocked than anything.

After the Panthers used the first pick in the third round of the 2011 draft to take McClain, a defensive tackle out of South Florida, he started 12 games as a rookie before he sprained his left knee, which ended his season.

And that was the end of his career with the Panthers.

Carolina cut him on Sept. 2 before last season and added veteran defensive lineman Dwan Edwards.

“Absolutely. Absolutely,” McClain said when asked if he still aims to prove that the Panthers were wrong. “Every day I come out here and try to get better, trying to prove myself, that they did make a terrible mistake. Everything happens for a reason.

“I don’t really want to harp on it. Whatever happened, happened. The fact that it did happen, I can’t really complain. I ended up here in this great organization. I’m thankful for what they did, letting me come here that I can prove myself and can be in the NFL.”

After being signed by the Texans during the 2012 season, McClain is at OTAs fighting for a job to stay in the NFL. It’s a far cry from where he was two seasons ago.

McClain entered his 2011 rookie season as a starter on the Panthers’ defensive line until his knee injury forced him to shut it down. McClain was the second player taken by the Panthers in the 2011 draft. They took quarterback Cam Newton with the first-overall pick and didn’t have a second-rounder.

At the time he was cut by the Panthers, McClain was the highest drafted player from the 2011 draft class to be cut by his respective team. Shortly thereafter, the Eagles cut second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett.

After he was waived by the Panthers, McClain wasn’t picked up immediately. It took almost a month before another NFL team signed the former first teamer on the All-Big East team.

“At first, I wasn’t really upset. I was shocked,” McClain said. “After it dawned on me a couple weeks in, after I wasn’t getting picked up, I was kind of angry but I knew that wasn’t really going to help me get back on the field. I had to put that to the side, put my ego to the side and start working hard.”

McClain said he worked out for a bunch of teams but wasn’t picked up by one until nearly a month later, when the Patriots signed him at the end of last September. His stay in New England was short-lived. Less than a week after he signed with the Pats, they cut him again.

Within a year and a half, McClain went from being the first pick in the third round of the draft and a starter in the NFL to being cut twice by two different teams in a month’s span.

From there, McClain was on the street for about another month before the Texans signed him after David Hunter went on the IR with a toe injury. McClain said the Texans liked his ability to move for a big guy; he’s listed at 6-2, 304 pounds, which is very similar to the size of Earl Mitchell, this year’s starting nose tackle. McClain played just 21 snaps in three games with the Texans in 2012.

During OTAs this offseason, McClain said he’s been working inside and outside on the defensive line and has been trying to learn all the positions. It was a “little bumpy” at first but all the reps he’s been getting have helped.

He isn’t sure where the Texans see him fitting in and he said he’s told them he’ll play wherever they need him too. Either way, there are players ahead of him on the depth chart and he knows it. Taking mental reps helps and watching players like J.J. Watt will only make him better, he’s determined.

McClain’s still trying to prove the Panthers wrong. And he’s still trying to live up to being the 65th player taken in the 2011 draft.

“A little bit but not as much as if I were in the first round,” McClain said about the added pressure. “It’s not as much, but it’s a little bit on me. I put pressure on myself to strive because I know I have greatness in me. I just have to show it on the field.”
But does McClain think he has a chance to make the 2013 Texans roster?

“I think I do. I’d be a fool if I didn’t,” he said cracking a smile. “But I really do think I have a chance. We’ll just see what happens.”