Rolando McClain vividly remembers watching former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez hauled out of his home in handcuffs on murder charges earlier this year. That sight alone confirmed for him that he made the right decision.
McClain, who was selected eighth overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2010 NFL Draft, decided to retire from the NFL earlier this year at age 23. The decision wasn’t due to a lack of production or opportunity, though. He racked up 246 tackles and 6 1/2 sacks in three seasons with the Raiders and signed a one-year deal with the Ravens earlier in the offseason. Instead, he retired because of what he was afraid might happen.
“I was feeling like Aaron Hernandez or something,” McClain says in an extensive piece in ESPN The Magazine. “Like I just wanted to kill somebody.”
McClain had been arrested three times in a 16-month span in his hometown of Decatur, Ala., and he was “genuinely scared” that he might end up taking the same path as Hernandez, according to Seth Wickersham‘s piece.
After his third arrest, McClain apparently began to realize that something was terribly wrong and he needed to make a change. or end up “locked in a cage like an animal.”
“For real. That had to be the only outcome,” McClain added. “I was just mad. I just wanted to fight people.”
Now, instead of playing for the Ravens or donning any teams uniform, McClain has re-enrolled at the University of Alabama to finish his degree. He also plays in a recreational basketball league and is spending time with his two kids, which is a far cry from the lavish life he led while in the NFL.
McClain also revealed that he does want to play in the NFL again someday, even indicating that he will “probably” return next season. There should be plenty of interest in the former first-rounder, too.