McClellin Turns to UFC On Road to the NFL

Boise State standout Shea McClellin, who could wind up being the Packers' first-round pick and the sidekick to Clay Matthews at outside linebacker, talked to Packer Report about his training with a UFC legend, his versatility and athleticism, and Kevin Greene.

After working out alongside UFC legend Chuck Liddell, how tough could any offensive lineman be for Shea McClellin?

With 20.5 sacks and 33 tackles for losses as a three-year starter at Boise State, McClellin already was highly regarded by NFL scouts. To make himself even more dangerous, McClellin spent a couple of weeks before the Senior Bowl learning the combat fighting techniques espoused by Liddell and Jay Glazer.

"We did some of the hand-fighting and the combat stuff that they do — the kind of thing that Clay Matthews does and Jared Allen does in the offseason," McClellin told Packer Report on Wednesday. "They get more violent with their strike. It was good. I think it definitely helped me to improve with my hands and helped me to get more violent."

Chalk that up as yet another reason why decision-makers in personnel departments across the league think so highly of McClellin. While many prospects are working on 40-yard times, McClellin is busy honing his game.

"That was something I needed to work on is being more violent (with my hands)," McClellin said. "My pass rush, I like using my hands a lot but just needed to work on being more violent, vicious with my striking.

"Being a pass rusher, you've got to use your hands. It's hands and hips. You've got to be very violent with your hands. That's a big part of being a pass rusher."

The work ethic is a byproduct of being raised on his grandparents' farm in Marsing, Idaho. On weekends and after practice for football, basketball or baseball, he'd milk goats or tend to injured animals that were brought to the farm.

"I really think it's molded me into the person that I am today. It taught me discipline and responsibility," McClellin said. "Those were some long days."

The days aren't getting any shorter, which is why it sounded like McClellin needed to be napping rather than talking to a reporter on this early evening. By April 18, McClellin will have had seven individual workouts and nine team visits — that's half the league. It's little wonder: His 4.62 in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine trailed only Bruce Irvin and Nick Perry among the defensive ends, according to the official results obtained by Packer Report. One veteran NFL scout, who compared McClellin to Matthews, suggested he is athletic enough to play running back in the NFL.

"Ha! I wish I could. That would be fun. I was a running back in high school. Those were kind of the glory days," said McClellin, who rushed for 39 touchdowns during his final two years at Marsing High School.

McClellin is so unassuming that he said he never truly considered the NFL a realistic career path until after his junior season at Boise State. Moreover, his versatility is another reason why he more and more is seen as a certain first-round draft pick.

At Boise, McClellin started at defensive end but played linebacker in passing situations. With the Vikings' coaching staff leading the North squad at the Senior Bowl, he spent the week at linebacker and absorbing the coaching of Hall of Famer Mike Singletary.

Teams running the 3-4 — like the Packers — covet him as a quarterback-sacking, run-stuffing outside linebacker. Among teams running 4-3 schemes, he's seen as a fit at defensive end, outside linebacker and even middle linebacker. During one workout, a team brought its defensive line coach and linebackers coach to put McClellin through his paces.

"The instincts (to play linebacker) are there," said McClellin, who played middle linebacker for four seasons in high school and had four interceptions at Boise State. "It's needing to learn the techniques and the reads. I think I can be good at it, for sure."

In Green Bay, where the Packers have a dire need for a sidekick to Matthews, he'd be coached by Kevin Greene. What does McClellin know about the man who potentially could be his mentor?

"I don't know much about him," said McClellin, who ranks fourth in school history in sacks. "I know he played in the league and was a really good linebacker. Did he have the most sacks of a linebacker?"

Told he was right, McClellin let out a tired-sounding laugh.

"OK, that's what I thought. So, I knew a little bit."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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