December 30, 2001 — There is a reason I waited until this week to go public with the following insights into the life of Atlanta Falcons starting center Todd McClure. I am hundreds of miles away in Pennsylvania — seemingly out of reach of Todd’s wrath should he not like what he reads.
I mean, Todd’s a pretty big guy. How do you think he’ll react when he learns that I told the world he grew up liking to bake, sew and shop. Or what about the fact that if Todd weren’t an NFL lineman he’d probably be a nurse? What’s he going to do when he finds out I told everybody that?
Probably nothing, actually. Todd’s just not your stereotypical lineman.
“People think that most linemen are the big, dumb, thug, grunt, run-through-walls kind of guys,” Todd’s father Leo McClure said. “He’s really a lot different than that.”
In fact, those who know Todd best describe him as just the opposite. They use words like introspective, patient, sedate, considerate, thoughtful, gentle, compassionate.
“He’s a big teddy bear,” said wife Heidi McClure. “I guess you would think a big huge guy wouldn’t be as sweet as he is.”
Added mother Brenda McClure, “He may be aggressive on the field, but he’s really a tender person. Because of his tenderness and sweetness, we didn’t know that on the field he could pull off what he pulls off.”
Brenda remembers a boy who often would rather spend time with mom in the kitchen than dad in the gym. When Todd was a youngster, he was the last of the McClures’ three sons that Brenda thought would be a professional athlete.
“Out of the three, he would be my daughter,” said Brenda, adding that Todd really enjoyed sewing and other crafts in addition to baking. “He wouldn’t mind shopping and he liked trying on clothes. He liked coming home from shopping and putting clothes on and seeing how they looked. He liked all that stuff. He still does.”
Still, Todd was quite the jock growing up, as well. He played football, basketball and baseball from the time he was 8 years old. He dreamed about becoming a pro athlete. He practiced signing his autograph over and over again.
Todd was always a big kid. In Little League baseball, there wasn’t a helmet that could fit his head.
“So it just sat right on top of his head. It came about halfway down,” Leo said. “He was obviously the biggest kid in the whole league. He was just thick everywhere. He hit like 36 home runs. When he’d come up they’d line up at the fence because they were on a small field and he was so huge.”
Neither of Todd’s parents are large people. Leo stands 5-foot-9 1/2, Brenda 5-7. They always thought Todd would stop growing. He never did. He’s now 6-foot-1 and 286 pounds.
But Todd always had speed to go with his size. He was an all-state catcher in baseball at Central High in Baton Rouge, La. In football, he played defensive tackle and tight end.
And, perhaps most interestingly, Todd played point guard in basketball until the 11th grade. How many other NFL linemen can say that?
“It made him nimble and light-footed,” said Leo, who played and later coached basketball at Southeastern Louisiana University. “He had to move around with some awful quick guys. I was always amazed at the quickness of his feet and his hands.”
Still relatively small for a lineman, Todd relies on his athleticism to compete with his usually larger opponents.
“You’ve got to know your assignments and be good with your technique,” Todd said. “I can’t get away with as much as a guy with more size. He may use bad technique, but still just overpower somebody. I can’t get away with that.”
Todd’s mind also makes up for his lack of mass. He relies on his intellect — an attribute not often associated with the men in the trenches.
“As far as linemen not being very smart, I don’t know where that came from,” said Todd, who originally went to college to become a nurse before switching to a business major when a football career became a possibility. “Because the majority of what we do is mental. You’ve got to be really smart to be able to make some of the blocking calls and some of the adjustments.”
And the same goes for keeping your cool in the kitchen, I suppose. What if you run out of something like half-and-half? You’ve got to be able to think quickly on your feet then too, right?
“He likes to cook,” Heidi said. “And he’s very good. He’s a better cook than I am.”
Cooking. Sewing. Baking. I wondered how many Falcons knew all of Todd’s hidden talents. So, I went to the man himself.
“Oh my goodness. Here we go,” sighed Todd, who had known for weeks the secrets his parents had spilled. “Do I have to answer this question?”
“Well …,” I began.
“I don’t know,” Todd continued reluctantly. “I enjoy cooking. I don’t do a whole lot of sewing anymore. I used to back in the day.”
“And how many of your teammates know about all this?” I asked.
“Not very many,” Todd replied with a very un-teddy-bear-like stare. “And hopefully not a whole lot ever will.”
Good thing Todd and the rest of the Falcons are busy today.
Did You Know?
Todd and his older brother Trey were both captains and All-Americans in different sports at LSU in 1998. Todd, obviously, played football for the Tigers. Trey played baseball and won two College World Series titles at LSU. He later went on to play in the Chicago Cubs farm system.