Tuesday, August 23, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Can't turn Hogs down twice

Special to the Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Thanks to his unofficial amateur agent, Jacksonville’s D’Vone McClure couldn’t twice say, “No,” to his home state Arkansas Razorbacks.

An All-State receiver in football and a baseball All-American outfielder upon graduating Jacksonville High School in 2012, McClure first signed with coach Dave Van Horn’s baseball Razorbacks before the Cleveland Indians drafted him in the fourth round and offered $765,000.

“I signed with Van Horn for sure, but Cleveland definitely gave me too good an offer to refuse,” McClure recalled.  “I don’t regret anything. It was definitely an awesome experience. I learned a lot and matured a lot.”

And learned to take a lot of bad with the good. He was released by the Indians last March 28. He played four seasons of minor league ball with a .219 career batting average and two stints on the 2015 disabled list, but suddenly became a college football commodity with his Jacksonville autumns not forgotten.

“Last year I ended up getting hurt and didn’t play the rest of the season,” McClure said. “This year I played in spring training and stopped playing the last day of spring training. Two weeks later I was on a (football) visit here. A week later I was on a visit to Arizona and a week later I came here to enroll in school.”

Arkansas had at least two aspects for McClure that Arizona didn’t. The Razorbacks had McClure’s home state and they had a hometown pal and Jacksonville teammate, fourth-year junior Razorbacks defensive back Kevin Richardson.

“That’s my guy,” McClure said. “He kind of initiated the process. He mentioned it to me when I stopped playing baseball and I was all the way with it. I signed here out of high school and went on another visit to Arizona, but I couldn’t leave my city twice. I ended up coming here.”
And though the Razorbacks are so deep in receivers that he might redshirt, McClure plunges whole Hog into football.

“It’s just been awesome,” McClure said. “These guys have been taking me in and showing me around and treating me like a brother. It’s been fun so far.”

Not just a brother, but a big brother and not just because he’s big for a receiver at a well-muscled 6-2, 219.  For while a football freshman, McClure is 22 years old with four pro years on the road behind him.

“D’Vone McClure is having another mature guy around,” receivers coach Michael Smith said. “Although he’s a freshman, he’s a guy that has played professional sports and understands the rigors of being a professional athlete. To be able to co-sign with me after I make a statement about being a professional, he understands it. And when they are away from me he talks about it.”

The lessons and advice McClure imparts, “they’ve all been good,” Smith said.

Same for Richardson’s advice to Smith.

“I talked to coach Smith and he said, ‘Talk to him and get him up here,’” Richardson said. “As soon as I got him up here, they loved him. He’s built, he’s big. That’s what they want in the SEC. I feel like he’ll fit in.”

Richardson said growing up he has seen McClure fit in as an opponent and as a teammate at Jacksonville where McClure starred at receiver while Richardson was Jacksonville’s wild card as a quarterback, running back, safety, kickoff returner and punt returner.

“He was one year ahead of me,” Richardson said. “I’ve been playing against him in Pee-Wee football since I was about six.”

Then they starred together at Jacksonville.

“I threw him some touchdowns in high school and he blocked for me some in high school,” Richardson said. “So to be able to reunite with him is really fun.”

McClure was asked about his baseball to football adjustment.

“It’s different between football and baseball,” McClure said. “Different things you do out here, you have to get acclimated. Just getting acclimated to a different sport is going to take some time and I have to adjust to the process and embrace it.”

They say hitting a great curve ball with a round bat is among sport’s greatest challenge, but so must be getting open to catch a pass with your back turned to a defender bent on breaking you in half.

“Definitely the physical ability takes a bigger role in football, but hitting a curve ball definitely is challenging, too,” McClure said. “I feel pretty good. First day in pads after four years was a little different for me. The pads were a little heavy, but so far the guys tell me I have been doing pretty well and taking it in pretty good. I am just looking forward to helping the team any way I can and having a good year with these guys.”