Rolando McClain retires at age 24


Stardom can cause problems for some people and 2010 first round pick Rolando McClain couldn’t deal with the spotlight. After just three seasons in the NFL, the young linebacker retired from the game at age 24. Playing the game at a high level wasn’t his problem, but the money, power, and effects of his family lead him away from the game he used as an escape.

Many people wonder why one would quit playing in the National Football League at such a young age. Rolando McClain had many reasons. He felt out of control and said, “I felt like Aaron Hernandez, like I just wanted to kill somebody.”

Coming from the slums of Decatur, Alabama, McClain was never able to have a balanced life until he was able to play under Nick Saban at Alabama. In his youth he fled his house many times to get away from his terrible family life. He couldn’t deal with his single mother, the drugs, gangs, and violence surrounding him. Leading him to living with teammates or coaches’ couches throughout high school.

When the highly rated recruit came into Tuscaloosa as a starting linebacker as a freshman, he was cocky and often got himself into trouble. At one of his first practices, he felt as if he was being asked to do too much in the defense leading him to try to make his own rules. Coach Saban didn’t agree with him trying to make his own rules so the two didn’t get along, causing McClain to be suspended for the first couple of games. McClain liked how Saban was able to straighten him up so the two began a surrogate father son relationship. The two spent extra hours going over films and working together one on one.

After his great college career, McClain left college after his junior season to go into the draft. It resulted with the Oakland Raiders selecting him 8th overall. McClain quickly learned that his life dream of being an NFL player wasn’t all it was made out to be. He hated going to practice and at one point told his teammates he wanted to quit. He stuck with it for a couple of seasons, then after being released by the Raiders and picked up by the Ravens decided it was time to call it quits.

Many things caused McClain so much grief and depression during his time in the league and one was money. At his draft day party, his father who was not a part of his life decided to show up, wanting money from his son who was about to sign a 5 year, $40 million contract, with $23 million guaranteed. All of his friends and family members from his early life in Decatur started swarming him asking for money and gifts. McClain said he spent over $600,000 in six months on his so called “friends.” This wasn’t all, when McClain went home for his grandfather’s funeral; his family signed up for a $20,000 funeral package with five limos and left him with the tab.

All of these things were compounded as the star linebacker also got into trouble off the field. On December 1, 2011, he was arrested for assault in a shooting incident. This wasn’t the end of his issues; January 8, 2013 was arrested for having illegal window tint and resisting arrest. A few months later in April, he was arrested again for resisting arrest.

McClain has promised himself to never go back to his hometown of Decatur, and has moved back to the college town where he thrived. He re-enrolled at the University of Alabama to pursue his degree, since he left school early. He lives in a house on the water with his teammate Marquis Maze from Alabama and Jarodious Willingham, one of the few childhood friends he hasn’t cut out of his life. He enjoys sitting on his dock fishing, playing rec league basketball, and living stress free. His goal is life is now to be the best father he can be for his two sons; the dad who he didn’t have growing up.

When asked about coming back to the NFL, McClain doesn’t get too worked up, saying things like he will “probably play next season.” It is great that McClain was able to leave the game before he made an awful decision like Aaron Hernandez or Jovan Belcher.

McClain doesn’t blame anyone for his actions, he just says “because I’m me.” He does blame football for his problems; he chose to leave it.

“When I die,” he says, “they’re going to say that I lived my life the way I wanted to live.”