As players take their final breaks before training camp, The Redskins Blog will take a look back at the new faces from this offseason and what we've learned about them, football and otherwise, so far.
Today we’ll focus on defensive lineman Terrell McClain.
1. He was most recently a Redskins rival.
A third-round pick out of South Florida, Terrell McClain was selected No. 65 overall by the Carolina Panthers in 2011. After six NFL seasons, McClain has played for the New England Patriots, the Houston Texans and, most recently, Washington’s NFC East arch-rival, the Dallas Cowboys.
“It is definitely weird,” McClain said of being on the other side of the competition. “A lot of people wouldn’t have pegged it but things happen.”
Now that McClain’s loyalty lies with the Redskins, he is prepared to face the division opponents this upcoming season.
“When players play their former team, they feel like they have to go in the mindset of saying you have to prove yourself,” McClain said. “It’s not going to be like. I’m going to have fun. I have no bad blood between anybody in the organization, I mean it’s a great organization, I loved every minute I was there. For me, I’m just going to be out there having fun.”
2. He was uneasy entering free agency.
With an uncertain future, McClain tried to remain optimistic in the days leading up to free agency. Less than 24 hours after free agency officially opened, though, he was signed.
“I was nervous being that I was hitting the free agency market and I didn’t know how teams were coming after me,” McClain said. “Just hearing the fact that the Redskins were high on me and that they wanted me to come here with the new scheme going ahead eased it up just a little bit.”
Taking both McClain and defensive lineman Stacy McGee, and drafting Jonathan Allen with their frist-round selection, the Redskins seek to rebuild the defensive line in a major way.
3. He joins the Redskins after a career-best season.
After injury interrupted his play in 2015, McClain completed the 2016 season with personal bests. The defensive lineman recorded 40 tackles and 2.5 sacks, and contributed to the Cowboys’ top-ranked rushing defense (83.5 yards allowed per game).
“Being able to do what people knew I could do and just putting it out there on the film, everybody seeing what I was capable of doing, really felt good,” he said of his recent performance.
For his career, McClain has collected 90 tackles (58 solo) along with eight tackles for loss, three fumbles forced and two fumbles recovered.
4. Head coach Jay Gruden likes his style of play:
Though McClain moved from team to team early in his career, Gruden asserts that the player is now entering peak performance with the Redskins.
“He didn’t do a whole lot his first couple years, but he just came on like gangbusters,” Gruden said. “I like the fact that guys continue to stay with it and work and you see their work pay off. Their development…sometimes their development doesn’t happen until age 27, 28, 29 and it just hits and it clicks and [McClain] is a force to be reckoned with as far as his ability to track down plays and hustle.”
With a focus on strengthening the defensive line, Gruden sought out physical players like McClain to come to Washington.
“I know that if you come from Dallas and you play for [Cowboys defensive coordinator] Rod Marinelli you’re going to have what it takes to be a defensive lineman,” the head coach said. “You’re going to play hard, you’re going to do things the right way and then it will be an easy transition because we have a defensive line coach here who’s going to expect the same things in a big way. He’ll fit right in.”
McClain, too, sees the similarities between his former Cowboys coach and Redskins defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.
“Great defense, great guy and reminds me of Rod,” McClain said of Tomsula. “A high intensity guy who loves his players, and I can’t wait to play for him.”
5. He remembers the beginning of his football career well.
“I still remember the conversation I had with my dad,” McClain said. “We were in Pensacola, [Florida], it was my junior year [of high school], and I was just starting to get well known out there, you know, in the football world. I told my dad, ‘You know, I think I can make this a career. I want to be able to play professional.’ And he said, ‘It’s going to take hard work and dedication.’ And ever since then…”
From this decision, McClain accelerated his work ethic and level of play. During his senior year at Pensacola (Fla.) H.S., he recorded 65 tackles and eight sacks, earning first-team Class 3A all-state honors.
At the University of South Florida, the defensive tackle logged 89 tackles (17 for loss) and 7.5 sacks in 50 games with 33 starts. In 2010, his final collegiate season, McClain earned All-Big East honors after contributing to the Bulls’ No. 17 nationally ranked total defense.
6. He’s known as the “Dancing Bear.”
McClain became the “Dancing Bear” after one of his first practices at USF, when then-defensive line coach and assistant head coach Dan McCarney observed the player.
"He's just built like a bear, but he's so light on his feet," McCarney told the Tampa Bay Times. "Some nicknames stick really well, and that one did. From the start, I just thought he was a tremendous player and a great kid."
Maintaining his moniker in the NFL, McClain often entertained his teammates in Dallas with some of his best moves.
7. He looks forward to playing for the Redskins.
After six seasons with four different teams and many years of hard work, McClain is excited to contribute to the Redskins legacy.
“I’m blessed and honored,” McClain said. “I’m still kind of taking it in, you know? I’m a humble person, but, you know, once you get what you deserve, it’s really a blessing.”