Rolando McClain Meets the Media

Borrowing a theme from a popular Beatles' song, Alabama's Rolando McClain "get by with a little help from my friends." The rising sophomore linebacker from Decatur made 75 tackles for the Crimson Tide his true freshman season, and during his first meeting with the state's media as a collegian, he gave a lot of credit to his support staff.

That staff includes Tide coach Nick Saban, whose rule that media cannot interview true freshmen was the reason Monday was Rolando McClain's first sit down session with writers and broadcasters.

"It's been a long time," smiled McClain just after taking a seat. "I've just got to wait on my time. My freshman year was just that: a stepping stone to get to where I want to be."

And where is that?

"Learning the defense. I've got a lot of goals I want to achieve. I think I chose a great university," McClain said.

Rolando McClain
He's already achieved a trio of his goals. The reasons for McClain being named a starter, a Sporting News All-American and All-SEC coaches' team member were, according to him, Nick Saban, Kevin Steele, Prince Hall and Darren Mustin.

"I miss Prince Hall every day," McClain said of his suspended teammate. "I don't know about his off the field activities, but he's a great guy to me. He taught me a lot of things."

The graduated Mustin is also on the list of folks McClain wishes were still around.

"Darren was a walking playbook. He helped me a lot," McClain mused. "I'm going to miss him."

And coach Saban?

"He knew that I was a freshman," McClain said. "He knew I wanted everything perfect. There were days when I got yelled at. I had great coaches to help me," he smiled, "and my teammates helped me as much as they could. Lots of hours, sometimes after practice."

Like many freshmen, McClain battled homesickness when he arrived on campus early last summer.

"At first, I went home every weekend," he remembered. "I missed my mom. Now, I go every other weekend."

Last season, McClain was the one depending on teammates for help. Now, the tables have turned, as players like converted linebacker Jimmy Johns depend on McClain for guidance.

"Jimmy is what I just call a hitter," McClain said. "He's coming along. I'm trying to help him as much as I can. I have to depend on Jimmy, so I have to help him."

Jimmy Johns
As the weakside, or "Will" linebacker, Johns lines up next to McClain on most Tide defensive formations. That's suits McClain just fine.

"He's fast. He's smart. He's athletic. He brings a lot to the table," Johns' teammate explained.

All those things can also be said of the 6-foot-4, 243-pound McClain, who reported to Tuscaloosa around 260 last summer.

"I can move a lot better. I'm faster. I'm lighter on my feet," he said.

Two of McClain's best games last year were the loss at Auburn and the bowl win over Colorado, which were the Tide's last two contests. He intercepted passes in both.

"Auburn week, I took it on myself to study the playbook a lot more. It's a big rivalry," he said.

Then came the bowl game, in which McClain suffered not one, but two injuries. His toughness allowed him to play through both.

"Third play, broken thumb. Later in the game, I separated my shoulder. I was hurting, but at the same time, I couldn't give up. My teammates were depending on me," he said.

McClain currently wears a protective cast on that thumb which limits him in the weight room and at practice.

"I can't make interceptions," he admitted.

He said his thumb is healing, and the cast will come off, "after the spring. It should be OK for the season."

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