Over the past six years, WBAL broadcaster Gerry Sandusky has had an up close and personal look at inside linebacker Jameel McClain, who was released by the organization on Thursday.
McClain has certainly beaten the odds to get this far. He went from being a homeless youth in Philadelphia to a scholarship athlete at Syracuse. As an undrafted free agent prospect, he did more than enough to earn a spot on the Ravens' 53-man roster in 2008.
Each time that obstacles stood in the way, McClain not only overcame them, he exceeded them. He became a starting inside linebacker for one of the NFL's premier teams, and became someone his teammates looked up to in the locker room.
Sandusky saw McClain arrive in Baltimore six years ago and was there every step of his NFL journey. With his permission, here's what he wrote on his Facebook page:
When the Ravens released linebacker Jameel McClain to free up room under their salary cap, a part of me couldn’t help but think life isn’t fair, but a bigger part of me thought it doesn’t matter. This won’t stop Jameel McClain. People like Jameel who make a habit of beating the odds, deflect bad news and don’t let it stick to them for very long. And they have a powerful influence on others along the way.
In the six years I have grown to know Jameel, he has, unknowingly, influenced me with his ability to communicate success to himself. He’s happy to help motivate others and does a tremendous amount of work in the community. But he always communicates success to himself first. When you know his story, you realize how much courage that takes to do.
He grew up in a single parent family in one of the poorest areas of Philadelphia. He lived for a time with his mom in a Salvation Army homeless shelter. His older brother went to prison. He managed to get a scholarship to Syracuse, only to get ignored in the NFL draft. He made the Ravens, became a starter, and then in a Super Bowl season suffered a spinal chord injury that left him on the sideline watching instead of playing in the Super Bowl. Midway through the 2013 season he made it back onto the playing field for the Ravens. Through it all, I never heard him express bitterness, or any sense of unfairness. Now he’ll have to handle another setback, getting released.
Let me put what Jameel—and any other NFL player has done—just by making it this far.
There are about one million kids playing high school football in America. Of that group, only about 25,000 go on to play in college at division I, II, or III. Of that group, only about 500 get drafted or signed by an NFL team. Of that group, less than half make an NFL team. And of that group, less than half will sign a second contract. In other words, a high school football player has a .01% chance of really making it in the NFL like Jameel McClain.
And still the game and life appears to have pushed him to the outside, looking in.
Over the years, Jameel has always amazed me with his genuine enthusiasm and self-confidence. No show. No joke. And no arrogance. This guy believes in himself. I once asked him what he draws his strength from. Faith certainly plays a role, but he was also quick to share a quote with me, a quote he can repeat at will because he has said it over and over to himself for years. It’s a quote from Les Brown.
If you want a thing bad enough to go out and fight for it, to work day and night for it, to give up your time, your peace and sleep for it…
if all that you dream and scheme is about it, and life seems useless and worthless without it…
if you gladly sweat for it and fret for it and plan for it and lose all your terror of the opposition for it…
if you simply go after that thing that you want with all your capacity, strength and sagacity, faith hope and confidence and stern pertinacity…
if neither cold, poverty, famine, nor gout, sickness nor pain, of body and brain, can keep you away from the thing that you want…
if dogged and grim you beseech and beset it, with the help of God, YOU WILL GET IT! – Les Brown
Quotes often strike me as fluffy. Not this one. Jameel McClain has lived that quote. It has helped him beat the odds, over and over again. I have no doubt he’ll do it again.