Guard Jacques McClendon Trying to be Part of Colts Championship Tradition
INDIANAPOLIS – Jacques McClendon doesn't know his immediate future.
McClendon, an offensive guard from the University of Tennessee and the Colts' fourth-round selection in the April 22-24 NFL Draft, said he certainly knows his goals.
He knows he wants to contribute quickly.
He knows he is with an organization capable of winning.
And knows he likes his new environment.
And while McClendon said he knows the coming months will be about work and learning and trying to fit into a new situation, he said his first three days around the Colts were enough to show him something is obviously and unchangingly true.
He's part of something now. Something bigger than himself.
"As a player, the biggest thing you have to know is it's not about you," said McClendon, a fourth-round selection by the Colts in the 2010 NFL Draft and one of multiple rookies who will be profiled on Colts.com in the coming weeks.
"You're coming in to an organization that has won. You're trying to become a part of something. It's not about me. I have to come in, learn from the veterans, listen to the coaches and help embody what the organization is all about. I just have to come in and learn."
McClendon (6-feet-3, 324 pounds), the No. 129 selection in the draft, started six games in both his sophomore and junior seasons, moving into the starting lineup permanently as a senior.
It was then that he began to solidify his draft status.
McClendon, who earned not only an undergraduate degree but a Master's in smanagement in four years, started 13 games as a senior, helping Tennessee running back Montario Hardesty rush for 1,345 yards.
While McClendon was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, he became the 2010 draft's earliest-selected non-combine invitee when the Colts selected him.
"He's a guy that we think can give us some real anchor there in the middle," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "(He's) highly competitive (and an) extremely bright guy. So, he's a guy that certainly does have the intellectual capability to learn our system and learn it quickly."
What McClendon also is is a strong guy – very, very strong – having set a Tennessee record by bench-pressing 645 points as a junior in 2008.
Still, McClendon said that record means little now.
"I'm still strong, but I'm worried about being a better football player," McClendon said. "Weight-room strength and strength on the field are two different things. There are a bunch of people who probably couldn't bench 315, but could go out there and beat my butt. So, I'm just worried about going out there and being a better technician and handling myself as a professional.
"This is not little league anymore. This is the big leagues."
For McClendon and the Colts' other seven draft selections and rookie free agents, the process toward that next level began this past weekend at the 2010 rookie mini-camp. Over the three-day mini-camp, the rookies received their first extensive information about the Colts' system. The idea was to educate and acclimate the newcomers.
Mainly, it was to give the rookies an idea what being a member of the Colts required, and McClendon said the message was clear from early the first day, Friday.
That was when Colts quarterback Peyton Manning spoke to the rookies.
"Peyton came in and told us the expectations they have," McClendon said. "This is a championship organization, and he told us what to expect. A leader like that – one of the great quarterbacks of all-time, if not the greatest – for him come in and tell us what it takes to be a Colt, you definitely listen.
"I've met with Peyton before, but this is the first time I've listened to him as the captain of a team I'm on. You see his persona he's put on television and you see it really in person, and you see why they've been able to win here for so long."
McClendon said it was clear quickly during the weekend that the Colts were a winning organization. Asked to name his impressions on Friday, he replied, "Championship. Character. Prestige."
"They're one of the few organizations that's been able to win consistently for a long period of time in the National Football League with the greatest players on the field," he said. "That's something that's very hard to do, and they seem to do it on a consistent basis."
McClendon, growing up in Tennessee and playing for the Volunteers, said he grew up a fan of Manning. But although he has a signed Manning helmet, he said any time for being a fan has long since passed.
He said the time now is to be a teammate, and beginning last weekend, he said the time for learning the best, most-professional way to do so is now at hand.
"If you want to be a professional football player, you want to learn from the best," he said. "He's the greatest quarterback ever, and I respect him as a player more than anybody, but at the same time, I want him to teach me and let me know what I need to do to get to the point that I can be the greatest player I can become."