For Jameel McClain, a second-year linebacker, surviving in the NFL pales in comparison to what he’s already endured to earn a spot with the Ravens. As a 9-year-old growing up in Philadelphia, he spent a year living in a homeless shelter before playing for Syracuse.
Here are my 20 questions for McClain:
1. Please describe the homeless shelter in which you resided.
2. What were the accommodations, including the beds, like?
3. Since you were surviving as much as living, did you dream about playing in the NFL at night?
4. How much to you think about being homeless today?
5. How did being homeless shape you into who you are today? You’ve already endured more than many players in the league.
6. Do you ever visit Baltimore-area shelters to meet with those in need?
7. Why did you sign as an undrafted free agent with the Ravens before the 2008 season. The Ravens had plenty of standout linebackers. Don’t you think you would have had a better chance making another team?
8. Specifically, which veteran players have mentored you, and what advice have they given you in which you learned the most?
9. With the departure of Bart Scott to the Jets, the right inside linebacker position is open. Why do you feel this is your best chance to make the starting lineup?
10. At Syracuse, you played more at a defensive end. What’s been the hardest part of transitioning to linebacker?
11. You and Tavares Gooden, a third-round draft pick out of Miami in 2008, are competing for Scott’s spot. What’s your relationship with Gooden?
12. You’ll make about $385,000 this year. But since you’re a free agent next year, do you feel this is the best opportunity to prove you’re worthy of earning millions? Scott signed a $48 million contract with the Jets.
13. You were the only undrafted free agent to make the team last year. What made you standout? Specifically, what did you do that the others didn’t to earn a roster spot?
14. What did you buy with the first paycheck you received from the Ravens?
15. It’s common for players to praise God after a good play. Given everything that’s happening in the world today, do you think God cares who wins a football game?
16. You’ve been in Baltimore for over a year now. What’s the best part of living in Baltimore and what’s the most undesirable?
17. You boxed in Golden Gloves Tournaments throughout grade school. Do you plan to return to the ring after football?
18. You received your first boxing trunks from Joe Frazier. Describe your relationship with him.
19. What’s your role as a local spokesman for the Salvation Army?
20. Where do you find your inspiration?