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After seeing his life fall apart after entering the NFL, Rolando McClain is going back home to Alabama.
At a benefit dinner Tuesday night, Nick Saban told attendees that "[Rolando's] gone back to school. He's with us now." The 23-year-old announced his retirement from the NFL last month after three seasons in the league. The eighth overall pick by the Oakland Raiders in the 2010 draft, McClain’s promising pro career went off the tracks after a series of off-the-field incidents.
"I know a lot of people get disappointed in [Rolando] and a lot of the things he's struggled with," Saban continued, "but he's with us now."
McClain was a star in Tuscaloosa, winning the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker and helping Saban win his first national title at Alabama. The Decatur native was one of the top prospects in the country coming out of high school and lived up to the hype, tallying nearly 300 tackles (31.5 for loss), eight sacks and five interceptions in his three years with the Crimson Tide. When the Raiders took him in the first round, the usually mocked franchise was given high marks for the presumably safe, smart pick.
McClain signed a five-year, $40.25 million contract and while fairly productive (246 tackles, 6.5 sacks) in his time with the Raiders, he couldn’t stay out of trouble with the law. In January of 2011, McClain was arrested on misdemeanor assault charges for firing a gun during a fight in his hometown. He was arrested this past January – again in Decatur – for providing false information during a traffic stop. In April, back in his hometown after signing a contract with the Ravens, McClain was arrested for a third time, this time being charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Saban is often mocked for being a robot (or worse) whose only goal is to win football games, so it's nice to see him attempting to help out one of his old players by bringing him "home" to Tuscaloosa. As long as he can keep McClain away from Decatur – a two-hour drive from the Alabama campus – the coach might be able to help turn around the life (and perhaps career) of a man he clearly respects.
"That guy was a phenomenal leader," Saban added on Tuesday night. "He affected everybody in the organization at a time when we needed leadership because we had a lot of bad things happen when I first got there."
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