You can sum up former University of Tennessee football player Jacques McClendon in one word — strong. The 6-feet-3, 324-pound McClendon is strong in the weight room, where he set the program record with a 645-pound bench press in the summer of 2008.
He's also strong in the trenches, where he started 26 times at right guard and established a reputation as a "road grader" on rushing plays.
He's equally strong intellectually, making the Southeastern Conference academic honor roll each of his four years at Tennessee.
A native of Cleveland, Tenn., McClendon was one of the most heralded players in Tennessee's 2006 recruiting class. Tabbed High School All-America by Parade magazine and Street & Smith, he played in the U.S. Army All-American Game and earned recognition as the state's Gatorade Player of the Year.
As a college freshman he worked his way into the starting lineup by the Vols' Outback Bowl game against Penn State. As a sophomore he helped Tennessee's line lead the NCAA in pass protection, allowing just four sacks in 13 games. He also made one of the Vols' biggest plays that season, hustling 15 yards downfield to recover a fumble that extended a crucial fourth-quarter scoring drive in an overtime win vs. South Carolina.
After a disappointing junior season that saw him start just six of Tennessee's 12 games, McClendon bounced back with a superior senior year. His ferocious drive blocking was instrumental as tailback Montario Hardesty rushed for 1,345 yards.
Still, McClendon was not invited to the 2010 NFL Combine and was largely overlooked by NFL Draft experts. That probably was due to three factors:
McClendon took the Combine snub in stride, which wasn't surprising. He is remarkably upbeat and resilient, traits he exhibited throughout his collegiate career. A prime example occurred days prior to Tennessee's 2009 opener, when he was asked if he had managed to put the Vols' 5-7 debacle of 2008 behind him.
"This is a new chapter," he said, "and a new book."
Selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth round of the recent NFL Draft, Jacques McClendon now finds himself preparing to start a whole new library.
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