After their Pro Day, Patriots' running backs coach Ivan Fears worked out Alabama fullback Le'Ron McClain (6-foot, 265 lbs.). It's easy to see why. During his collegiate career McClain recorded 37 carries for 170 yards, 48 receptions for 405 yards and 10 total touchdowns for a player who supposedly just a lead blocker.
The bruising fullback was proud to open holes for his teammate and long time friend, running back Kenneth Darby. Darby got the glory while McClain did the dirty work.
"I take pride in my blocking and getting to the guy, you know, taking him on every play, wearing him down that first, second and third quarter," said McClain. "By the fourth quarter, they won't come anymore. Whoever makes contact first - and I plan on doing that - always wins the battle."
Darby, who remains good friends with his former fullback, thinks highly of the player he affectionately refers to as his little brother. "He's bigger than me, but he's like my little brother," Darby said of McClain. "I've got to beat up on him every now and then to keep his head right. But he's just like my little brother."
McClain has a humorous side as well, especially when it comes to big brother Darby. McClain told the hosts of Sirius NFL Radio in a recent interview that Darby was a big John Mayer fan.
"He tried to throw a curveball or something like that at me," Darby said as he laughed. "He made it out like I was a big John Mayer fan. I like (Mayer), but I'm not that big of a fan."
Darby had a comeback for his little brother. "He likes that girl singer
Playful banter aside, Darby's lead blocker knows how to get the job done. McClain is a compact player with incredible strength. He attacks the hole aggressively and routinely eliminates defenders when picking up the blitz. Imagining the 265-pounder listening to Pink before a game is enough to solicit a hearty chuckle from most who visualize the picture, which is exactly the intended reaction Darby had when he made the comment. Picturing McClain blowing up linebackers in the hole so Darby can chew up opponents on the ground solicits an entirely different response.
Solid blocking fullbacks like McClain are a dying breed. A select few, like Lorenzo Neal in San Diego, are still creating holes for the elite backs behind them. More often, teams want their players to do more than just block though, something McClain is more than able to do. Kirby Wilson, the running backs coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, shared that sentiment with McClain.
"He told me there's a rare breed of fullbacks in the league and he feels like I'm a great one, the best one he's seen in a long time," McClain said.
|Alabama's Le'Ron McClain (33) stiff arms Florida International's Jeremiah Flood (38) en route to a touchdown during the first half of a football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)|
While he may not be as accomplished a blocker as Neal, McClain does provide a bigger threat as a receiver out of the backfield. The Patriots look for more than just a one-dimensional player like Neal to be part of their offense. It's one of the reasons they acquired fullback Heath Evans when the Miami Dolphins cut him mid season a year and a half ago.
"If you want me to go in there and lay the lumber to a linebacker, I'll do that," McClain said. "If you want me to slip out in the flat and catch a pass, make a guy miss and get up-field, I'll do that."
Now that it appears the Patriots have decided to move on without fullback Patrick Pass, New England could use a multi-dimensional player like McClain. The Patriots have a pressing need for someone who can clear space for Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris. Evans has been up to the task in the past, but an infusion of youth at the position may be what the Patriots need. Few fullbacks last as long as Neal (14 years), and Evans is already in his seventh season.
McClain was recently honored at Alabama's A-Day game along with teammate Juwan Simpson, a former captain of the Crimson Tide defense. McClain and Simpson were inducted into Alabama's walk of fame, which includes cement hand and footprints of all Crimson Tide team captains. McClain was honored for not only his lead blocks, but also his leadership among his teammates.
A number of other teams including the San Diego Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers as well as the Patriots have expressed interest in McClain. Rated as the top fullback in the Draft, many experts - including Scout.com's Tom Marino - believe he will be drafted some time around the third or fourth round. If he drops much further, the Patriots are sure to have an interest in him.
Michael Lombardo of SDBoltReport.com contributed to this article
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