North Texas Daily

Family, NFL aspirations drive McClain during senior season

Family, NFL aspirations drive McClain during senior season

September 26
12:54 2017

In high school, Kishawn McClain’s driving force was a desire to play college ball. In his first season at North Texas, it was about breaking onto the collegiate football scene. During his sophomore campaign, he sought to establish himself as the ball-hawk safety the Mean Green defense needed.

In early February 2016, during the months leading up to his junior year, his motivation shifted. The seasons ahead were no longer only about football. His newborn son, Brayden McClain, was an important part of the picture.

“He gave me a new reason,” McClain said. “A new reason to keep pushing and keep my head up in everything I’m doing right now.”

With even more to play for, he had his best season in 2016 with a team-high 91 tackles and three interceptions. McClain was named a second-team All-Conference USA selection.

The National Football League

McClain has always had aspirations of an NFL career on his mind.

As his senior year continues, those goals have continued to become more prominent with the birth of his son and the reality of the end of his career at North Texas drawing closer.

“I’m going to do all I can to go to the next level and keep playing,” McClain said. “[I’ll get there] by just playing football. Not doing too much, staying healthy and just making plays.”

His versatility will help him in this endeavor. Coming out of Rosenberg Terry High School he was a top-12 athlete in Texas and even played quarterback during his high school career.

All of that experience helped mold him into a lethal safety at the collegiate level.

“It [helps] knowing what you have to do and calling out what you see,” McClain said. “You’re like a quarterback on the defense so it’s the same thing.”

McClain certainly has the numbers over his four seasons to catch the eyes of NFL scouts in need of a fearless ball hawk at defensive back. In his career at North Texas, McClain has 261 tackles in 41 games, 9.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions and forced four fumbles.

“His knowledge of the game in general [has grown],” senior running back Jeffery Wilson said. “He’s always been a great ball player but now that he’s got the game down and an understanding for the game, it makes him a better player than he already was.”

Leadership

McClain is strong enough to take down running backs and smart enough to drop into coverage and make a play on any deep ball.

His attributes as a leader, however, far outweigh his skills on the field to fellow defensive backs and coaches. For a preseason first-team all-conference selection, that says a lot.

“He’s been a leader since we’ve got here,” Troy Reffett, defensive coordinator and safeties coach, said. “He’s assumed the role and has a lot more responsibility this year because he’s a senior. He’s a guy the kids look up to. He’s one of the hardest workers we have, so he does a lot for this team.”

McClain has naturally stepped up into a larger role in his final season with the program, but the importance of that role rests in the fact that the Mean Green have two new starters in the secondary. With newcomers Khairi Muhammad and Kemon Hall ascending into the starting lineup, McClain has become more of a teacher than in previous years.

Muhammad, who lines up alongside McClain at safety, has grown immensely from his freshman to sophomore year and credited that growth to McClain’s leadership as he watched and learned from McClain’s production throughout the past year.

“He always has a positive attitude,” Muhammad said. “He holds people accountable, he’sjust a great guy and I learned a lot from him. He’s just a tremendous player.”

In his time at North Texas, his role on the defense has clearly grown since he thrived as free-firing sophomore attacking opposing running backs or receivers catching an underneath pass. Now, McClain also shoulders the role of ensuring the rest of the secondary is ready to go pre-snap.

“[My role] is getting the proper call, proper alignment and getting people lined up,” McClain said. “[Then] doing what I need to do. That’s pretty much my role.”

While his character and leadership abilities are what make him a great teammate and captain, McClain’s play and production on the field are what he hopes will get him a job at the next level.

Senior year

With McClain having led the Mean Green in tackles for two straight years, opposing teams have taken notice early in 2017. Passes have started going to the other side of the field, and opposing blockers now search for the green number six before the play begins to try to slow him down and make others step up into the role he once held as the team’s leading tackler.

North Texas junior Kishawn McClain celebrates after a play against Army in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Colin Mitchell

Senior Nate Brooks has seen this first hand throughout the season. Brooks struggled in last week’s game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham, but he, like McClain, entered the season as an important leader in the secondary.

“They don’t really target [McClain] and my side [as much],” Brooks said. “[Teams] went at the young bulls pretty good, but they have handled it really well.”

As a result, McClain currently ranks fourth on the team with 21 tackles through four games. He also has an interception and 1.5 tackles for loss.

The numbers will not pop off the page anymore because he’s forcing teams to change how they attack the Mean Green defense. That has led to Muhammad stepping up and making plays when needed as he sits atop the leaderboard with 34 tackles and 2 TFL.

That’s fine with McClain, though. In this final season, he remains consistent in his goals when he takes the field – help others and do his job effectively.

After everything he has done for the North Texas football program since 2014, he’s now looking for the metaphorical cherry on top.

“I just want to finish strong and be a team player,” McClain said. “Don’t do too much, do what I need to do and make sure everyone else knows what they need to do.”

As a player, McClain is a malleable piece in Reffett’s defense.

He moves across the field with an intention to create havoc. But off the field, his focus is to reduce the chaos and uncertainty for his son and family. Football seems like a viable way to do just that.

“Like I said, [Brayden] gave me a new reason to go hard and to push myself,” McClain said. “I want to do it not just for me, but for him and my family.”

Featured Image: North Texas senior safety Kishawn McClain points toward the crowd after breaking up a pass. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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