May 20, 2014
By Steve Lewis
Former University of Connecticut football player Robert McClain, who is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons, is making just as big of a splash off the gridiron as he is on it with his gifted artistic ability.
McClain, who played at UConn 2006-09 as a defensive back, is entering his fifth year in the NFL in 2014. He was drafted by the Panthers and played for Carolina in 2010 and Jacksonville in 2011 and joined the Falcons for the 2012 season.
Away from the field, he currently draws and creates pictures of various items and people that are featured on his website www.mcclainsart.org. His passion for drawing and sketching has existed since his elementary school days in Lusby, Maryland, and is a venture he actively and proudly pursues to this day.
From drawing Dragon Ball Z cartoons in fourth grade to recently drawing a picture of the late Apple genius Steve Jobs, McClain has continued to hone his craft over the years and hopes one day that his art will be shown in professional galleries.
"I saw from a young age that I was pretty good at it, so I stayed with it," said McClain. "My uncle went to art school and my mom drew a little bit, as well as my older brother. The big difference between me and them though was that I kept going with what I was doing with my art."
With so many football players limiting themselves only to their athletic ability, McClain has decided to also develop his creative skills in order to eventually sell original works to the public.
"I sell prints of five different pieces of my art on my website. This year I want to sell originals, too," said McClain. "I've been drawing a lot so I'm actually looking to create more professional-quality pieces."
Though it is difficult for the former Husky to pick one favorite piece, since so much effort goes into every work, McClain narrowed it down to two.
His drawings "Hands", showing two hands holding each other, and "Lovely Woman", picturing a female's abdomen, are his standout works considering the strenuous amount of time he poured into each. Both are available for viewing on his website.
As far as incorporating football into his artwork, McClain has found ways to express the game he loves through intricate drawings of teammates and on-field gear.
"I drew the Falcon football gloves, which are the Nike ones we wear that when you put them together, they create the Falcons symbol," said McClain. "I have a print of it with everyone's autograph from the team around it."
McClain also drew Falcon teammates Julio Jones, William Moore, and Thomas DeCoud in "White Charcoal", portraying the players in their gear on the field.
McClain's energy has been devoted to his art as of late, but football has always been his main focus and with the 2014 NFL Draft now completed, offseason workouts are right around the corner.
Last season, McClain started six games for Atlanta, but played in all 16 regular season games as he recorded 65 total tackles (55 solo, 10 assists). He also contributed one sack, five pass defenses, and two forced and recovered fumbles. Both fumble recoveries came in Week 15 against the Washington Redskins.
In 2012, he played in 15 games and had another impressive 60+ tackle season (61 total), as well as 10 pass break-ups and two fumble recoveries. McClain's sole interception of the season and the first of his career came against Peyton Manning in Atlanta's Week 2 win over Denver, which he returned for 32 yards.
Even with four years of experience and two successful seasons in a row, McClain realizes his potential for growth is abundant entering his fifth NFL season.
"I've learned that I still have a lot of room to grow. I just have to keep growing and keep perfecting my craft and my ability," said McClain. "My body still feels young but the years are going by fast, I'm already on year five and it feels like yesterday I was a rookie. I need to keep learning and adjust to the game as it changes each year."
With so much desire to continuously work on his personal abilities, as well as strong confidence in the Falcons' organization to make good choices, McClain did not watch the NFL Draft. However, he was aware that fellow UConn alum and 2013 first-team All-American Athletic Conference linebacker Yawin Smallwood was picked by Atlanta in the seventh round.
Congratulations were in order at the time Smallwood was drafted and the two exchanged text messages. McClain's were intended to help Smallwood keep his focus.
"I was texting him after he got drafted and let him know getting drafted is one step, but the real accomplishment is getting past that average year that a lot of guys don't make it past," said McClain. "It takes a lot of hard work to make it in the NFL and any advice he can use, I'm going to make sure I give it to him. I've seen him play and he's good."
Between football season in the not-so-far-away future and his artwork progressing toward his creative ambitions, McClain is on a mission with little time to spare. When asked about what the future holds, McClain expressed his desire to progress toward his goals in art and football by relying on his determination and passion for each area.
"I'm hoping my art develops to the point where I can get it in galleries and sold around the world," said McClain. "I want to go really far with art, but also with football. I'm looking to play for at least ten years. It's been my goal since I first came into the NFL. If I can make it ten years, it's a blessing."
As McClain prepares for his third season with the Falcons, there is no telling what kind of headline he'll make next. He is a man of many talents.