Colts Select McClendon, Eldridge in Fourth and Fifth Rounds of 2010 NFL Draft
INDIANAPOLIS – Jacques McClendon said he never lost confidence.
That remained true throughout his collegiate career, and the offensive guard from the University of Tennessee said it even remained true in what could have been a discouraging process leading to the 2010 NFL Draft.
He played in no college All-Star games, and he was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.
But McClendon, one of the strongest players in the NFL Draft, said as the draft approached, said he began to get the idea that NFL teams thought of him more highly than analysts.
Late Saturday morning, the Colts proved him right.
"I couldn't be doing better," McClendon said after the Colts selected him with the No. 129 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, the No. 31 selection of the fourth round. "I'm sitting on Cloud 9 right now. To be drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, such a prestigious organization, in the fourth round – it's the greatest honor I've ever received in my life.
"I can't even explain how I feel right now."
McClendon (6-feet-3, 324 pounds) was the first of two offensive selections early Saturday for the Colts. They selected Oklahoma University tight end Brody Eldridge (6-5, 265) with the No. 162 selection overall and the No. 31 selection of the fifth round.
The Colts selected defensive players in the first three rounds – defensive end/pass rusher Jerry Hughes of Texas Christian in Round 1 on Thursday, Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer in Round 2 Friday and Southern California cornerback Kevin Thomas in Round 3 Friday.
Each of the Colts' first two selections on Saturday had versatile collegiate careers.
McClendon, who started 17 games over the past two seasons, is a converted defensive lineman, with Eldridge having played guard, center, fullback and tight end at Oklahoma.
"I've been in the same offense for four years," Eldridge said. "I kind of knew every position. It didn't matter where they wanted me to go. I knew what I was going to do. I guess I'm a get-it-done player. Whatever role they put me in, I'll be ready to go. I played four different positions at Oklahoma, so whatever I need to do, I'll do."
Eldridge, who caught 13 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown in four collegiate seasons, said there were other reasons he played the various positions. He said he eventually realized it might help his career, but at first he said there was a more basic reason.
"Who's going to tell (Oklahoma Head Coach) Bob Stoops no? You know what I mean?" he said. "They asked me to do it, so I did it. Then, I realized how much it was helping me out."
Eldridge, who said he "was in shock" when the Colts selected him, said he had no pre-draft visits with the Colts, and that he tried to think little about the draft process.
"My agent and I talked about really wanting it to be a surprise," he said. "I told him I didn't want to know what was going on, so I didn't know."
Colts President Bill Polian, who called Eldridge an "outstanding, tenacious blocker," said McClendon was a similar selection to past fourth- and fifth-round selections such as right tackle Ryan Diem and former starting guard Jake Scott.
"The Colts are getting a guy who's going to come to work every day," McClendon said when asked what he brought to the organization. "Whatever they ask him to do, he's going to do. He's going to be out of trouble. He's going to be in the film room late. He's going to be on the practice field late. He's going to do whatever it takes.
"I'm looking to do whatever it takes to be the best football player I can become."
And while McClendon said not attending the combine wasn't ideal, he said it didn't change his approach to the draft – either in the weeks leading to the draft or the past several days."
"It served as extra motivation," McClendon said. "I knew I had to work harder than everybody else. That frustration ended up turning into an extra fire that lit up under me. I knew I had to work hard and put that chip on my shoulder."
McClendon said while he attended few pre-draft events, he flew to Indianapolis for a pre-draft visit with Colts officials.
"Right after my Pro Day, they flew me in for a visit, so I definitely did meet with them," McClendon said. "I just stayed positive the whole time. I had a great agent. I had great people (around him) that worked with me every day. I really felt good the whole time. I knew I could play. To have that opunity in front of me, it's unbelievable for it all to come together.
"I had no expectation at all. I'm an under-the-radar guy. I just went to work. I controlled what I could control. That was working hard every day and making sure I'm on top of everything I can do. It ended up paying off in the end.
"I'm just grateful for the opportunity God has given me and the Colts have given me. I'm just ready to go to work right now."
McClendon, who started 26 games at right guard at Tennessee, was an All-Academic Southeastern Conference selection, and grew up in Cleveland, Tenn. As such, he said he grew up a fan of the University of Tennessee – and of their quarterback from 1994-97.
That was quarterback Peyton Manning.
"He comes around the facility all the time," he said. "I still have the Peyton Manning jersey. I have the autographed helmet in my mother's house. I'm a huge Peyton Manning fan. To be able to go to an organization with a quarterback like that is an unbelievable blessing.
"I just can't wait to get to work and learn from him. I know I'm going to have to be on top of everything."