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In-Depth On Rolando McClain And His Unusual Career So Far

Dig a little deeper into what makes Rolando McClain tick.

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

When the news first broke that the Dallas Cowboys had traded for twice-retired, three-times-arrested linebacker Rolando McClain, reactions varied, but many wondered why the Cowboys would make this move. Sure, they were desperate for help after Sean Lee went down, but the consensus was that he would be replaced by someone on the team and that any outside help would come later, maybe during training camp, and would be an established vet who was a free agent because of a lingering injury issue or maybe on the wrong side of 30. Instead, the Cowboys worked out a very low-risk trade for a player who has issues, to put it kindly.

In a piece I penned immediately after the signing, I tried to put a little context around McClain's past, looking at the issues the Cowboys would have to overcome if they were ever to unleash the potential in McClain on the NFL level. It turns out that piece did not fully serve its purpose. A much better read is an article by Seth Wickersham from ESPN The Magazine. He spent three days with McClain during his NFL exile last October. The portrait he paints of McClain is complex and varied.

In one statement, McClain reveals the explosive side of his personality, but at the same time displays an amazing amount of self-awareness.

"I was feeling like Aaron Hernandez or something," he says, "like I just wanted to kill somebody." He remembers watching Hernandez get hauled out of his house in handcuffs, later charged with first-degree murder, and being genuinely scared he'd end up the same way. The fact that he could relate to one of football's most notorious players speaks not only to how far gone he was but also to the newfound clarity with which he can now see his life.

When you read that, at least for me, it scares you a bit about McClain. Throughout the article his fascination with guns seems extremely problematic given his unstable nature and his use of a firearm in a crime. But as you read more, you see a guy who is genuinely aware of his issues, and in some respects desperate to conquer them. His whole retirement from the NFL was so he could go back to school at Alabama and try to recreate what was the happiest, most stable time of his life, his college years and Alabama football. Of course, there is no going back, but he is trying to realign his life, trying to put it back on the right path.

I'm not sure how this will work out, I don't think anybody is sure. But if you want to get a real insight into the mind of Rolando McClain, if you want to understand the demons he faces and whether he'll be able to overcome them, this ESPN article is a great place to start.

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