‘Demigod’ enjoying his time as starting LB
McClellan gets long-awaited return to defensive lineup with Dumervil in recovery
It was worth the wait for linebacker Albert McClellan.
In the three seasons since he had last started for the Ravens, McClellan did not cause a stir. Instead, he kept his eyes on his work, developing himself into a standout on special teams.
But during that time, McClellan’s ambition to be a starting linebacker never wavered, and he was rewarded Sunday when he started at outside linebacker in place of the injured Elvis Dumervil in the team’s 13-7 seasonopening win against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium.
For McClellan, it was a reward for seven years of toiling in the background.
“It means a lot,” McClellan said after Wednesday’s practice at the Ravens’ training facility. “I’ve been here a long time. It’s my seventh season with the Ravens. So it means a lot to be named a starting outside linebacker. It’s a great accomplishment. Now I’ve just got to focus on getting better so that I can stay out there.”
While McClellan might not be wellknown nationally (or even locally) when Sunday, 1 p.m. TV: Chs. 13, 9 Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 6
compared with defensive teammates such as fellow outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Dumervil, and strong safety Eric Weddle, he is well-liked in the locker room.
“We have a lot of trust in him,” said inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, adding that McClellan is nicknamed “The Demigod” because of his muscular 6-foot-2, 250-pound frame. “It’s not too often that you see a lot of outside linebackers in the league that can pass rush, set the edge on the run and get out in pass coverage. He does have a great ability.”
Undrafted out of Marshall in 2010, McClellan started 12 games in 2012 at inside linebacker, finishing with a career-high 42 tackles and one sack. McClellan, who has two career sacks, almost got his third against the Bills but was unable to bring down quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the second quarter.
McClellan, who made two tackles, including one for a loss, Sunday, blamed himself for trying to strip Taylor of the football rather than just tackling the quarterback, who had played for the Ravens from 2011 to 2014.
“He’s elusive,” McClellan said. “He’s what I guess you could call a waterbug back there. I shouldn’t have matched his hands. I went to match his hands and cause a fumble versus taking a good, clean hit. I went to match the ball, and he tucked it and used my momentum to shrug me off. That’s good on his part, but next time, unless I’ve got a sure chance to get the ball off of him, I’ve got to take the hit instead of trying to make a play.”
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees said he has been most impressed by McClellan’s intelligence.
“There are certain players that have to go out and they have to do repetitions in practice to make sure they’ve got it,” Pees said. “Albert’s not one of those guys. Albert’s one of those guys on the sideline who, when you tell to him, ‘We want to do this, we want to do that,’ he goes out and gets it done. In every facet, he’s tough, he’s smart, and he plays with effort. That’s the only three things you can ask of a guy.”
McClellan is enjoying his time as a starter, which will likely depend on Dumervil’s recovery from offseason foot surgery.
Dumervil is unlikely to play in Sunday’s road opener against the Cleveland Browns, which means McClellan is poised to make his second straight start.
McClellan said memories of his mother, Constance Barr, who died of cancer in 2010, and challenges overcome by other family members inspired him to remain hopeful about a return to the starting lineup.
“I’m always going to fight for what I want, what I believe in,” McClellan said. “Some of my role models growing up were fighters. I look at pictures and stuff of those people in my life to know to keep fighting for what I want and what I believe in.”
Like any player, McClellan might have preferred a faster rise to being a starter. But he sounded content with the path his career has taken, which includes being just one of nine players left on the roster who helped the franchise capture its second Super Bowl title to cap the 2012 season.
“Yeah, you want it to be a lot quicker, a lot sooner than later, but there must have been a plan for someone else so that he had his chance,” McClellan said. “I’m not going to rush anything. So the time is here now. So I’ve got to live with it and live up to it.”
Albert McClellan (50) is nicknamed “The Demigod” because of his muscular frame. “It’s not too often that you see a lot of outside linebackers in the league that can pass rush, set the edge on the run and get out in pass coverage,” C.J. Mosley said.