Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
Virginia Tech’s Deshawn McClease is a draft prospect many have heard of, but you may not know his journey.
From being part of the last class under legendary head coach Frank Beamer to big performances in bowl games, McClease’s career with the Hokies had it all.
Beamer’s Last Class
Coming out of Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, McClease was a four-star recruit, according to Rivals. VirginiaPreps, Rivals Virginia affiliate, had McClease as a first-team all-state selection. Outside of Virginia Tech, McClease had offers from Louisville, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Maryland among others. Ultimately, McClease decided to become part of the final recruiting class for legendary head coach Frank Beamer.
“(Being in Beamer’s last class) was cool,” McClease commented. “I got to see both sides. I got to see coach Beamer and what he brought to the university and I got to see Coach (Justin) Fuente and what they did as well.”
Time as a Hokie
McClease’s time at Virginia Tech included a plethora of ups and downs. McClease was part of teams that continued the nation’s longest bowl streak. Unfortunately, his final regular-season game in 2019 saw the end to the Hokies’ 15-year Commonwealth Cup winning streak over Virginia. During that contest, the Cavaliers rallied past the Hokies 39-30 to win the ACC’s Coastal division.
“That rivalry was taken seriously; we never expected to lose. We never went into the game thinking we could lose, we went into the game locked in, and pretty confident we would win,” McClease said about the UVA rivalry. “In 2019, when we lost, that game was like a dagger, just being part of that team that lost the streak, but it wasn’t really like a rivalry if you look at it. I guess now it makes it a rivalry again.”
In 2015 and 2016, the running back was redshirted, playing one game in total between the two seasons. After those two seasons, McClease played every game his final three years in Blacksburg, rushing for 124 yards against Oklahoma State in the 2017 Camping World Bowl. As a senior in 2019, he rushed for seven touchdowns.
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“My first two seasons, I didn’t play, I had to redshirt due to injury (shoulder),” McClease said. “I had to fight and come back every year just to get better and better. I feel like every season, I was able to get better and every single season, I was able to improve and show everybody what I can do.”
Over his time at Virginia Tech, McClease ran for 1,833 yards and 12 scores with a 4.7 yards per carry average throughout his career. While most of his damage came on the ground, McClease also caught 28 passes for 231 yards.
McClease had one more year of eligibility, but chose to declare for the NFL Draft as a redshirt junior.
“It was just my time,” McClease said. “I had been at Tech for five years and had graduated already. I felt like I had a good year and it was the perfect time; in talking with my family, we felt like it was the perfect time.”
COVID-Impacted Draft Prep
As he enters the draft, he does so in a difficult situation. With most of the world shut down due to Coronavirus, many pro days were canceled. Without an invite to the NFL Combine, McClease was left to rely on those pro days to make a last impression on scouts.
“The way I see it, life doesn’t stop. Business is still going on. The NFL isn’t going to stop, so there are still evaluations being done,” McClease remarked. “The draft is still going on obviously, so it’s not going to stop. It’s kind of just like a hurdle in a way, but you have to improvise and figure things out on your own.”
The NFL Draft is just more than a week away. With it nearing, McClease is making sure when his name is called, he is ready to make his hometown proud.
“I’m just working out up here at Virginia Tech right now and pretty much doing at-home stuff,” McClease explained. “But as far as running and lifting and watching football and film, you have to stay on top of that. It’s pretty easy to get into a lazy routine and start thinking everything else is on pause and then once this thing blows over you are behind. I don’t want to be behind.”
McClease has talked to a few teams. Those teams expect the former Hokie to be a late-round pick or undrafted free agent. Without face-to-face contact, it’s become more difficult.
McClease Hoping to Carry on Hokie Legacy
With a plethora of NFL stars from Virginia Tech like Tyrod Taylor, Michael Vick, the Edmunds Brothers, and Bruce Smith among others, McClease has something to live up to.
“It feels good, being a part of that legacy, and that tradition of guys coming from where I come from and make it to the NFL from the 757 to Virginia Tech to the NFL,” McClease stated. “I would love to; it would be an honor to do that (be the next one).”