BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech running back Deshawn McClease isn’t going to let a canceled pro day get in the way of his NFL aspirations.
McClease spent the two months leading up to Tech’s pro day working out at Bommarito, a 20,000 square foot athletic complex in the Miami area that counts dozens of current and former professional players as clients. He wrapped up the training session a week before the coronavirus virus outbreak shut down much of the country.
The NFL quickly put restrictions in place that prevent teams from sending personnel on the road, effectively canceling any pro days scheduled after March 13. Pro days are the best chance for players that weren’t invited to the NFL combine to get in front of a large group of scouts.
“I’m not bummed out about it, there’s still an opportunity to make it,” McClease said in a phone interview with The Roanoke Times. “My main focus is trying to control what I can control.”
McClease relied on that same philosophy in Blacksburg, as he dealt with injuries that sidelined him for long stretches of his college career — including the entire 2016 season.
“Early in my career I was given lemons,” McClease said with a laugh. “I had my first two years taken away from me. I really had to fight my whole time at Tech. I had to fight some uphill battles. I felt like I definitely responded in a way not many people could say they have. There’s visible and tangible evidence every single year I’ve gotten better and continued to get better.”
McClease intends to still “put on a show” for NFL scouts — he ran a 4.5 40-yard dash at Bommarito — but they just won’t get to see it first hand.
The running back, who left Blacksburg with a year of eligibility left, is working with his representatives to put together a mock pro day using guidance from the NFL on substance and procedure. His agents will provide the numbers and film of that workout to each team.
It’s not the ideal scenario, but he’s not the only student-athlete facing these unique circumstances.
“I can’t really stress myself out about it,” McClease said.
The 5-9, 190-pounder has already interviewed with the 49ers, Chiefs, Jets, Bengals and Titans. He hopes those interviews along with his resume shows what he can bring to an NFL roster.
McClease ran for 1,833 yards with 12 touchdowns and caught 28 passes for 231 yards for Tech. He had his best season in 2019, with 177 carries for 843 yards as the team’s primary running back with three 100-yard games.
“I can catch the ball out of the backfield, I can run between the tackles, I can run outside, you can line me up in the slot and kick returns,” McClease said. “I’ve been working on punt returns. I can pretty much do anything they ask me to do and I’m going to come to work every single day with a chip on their shoulder and get better.”
The interest from NFL teams has McClease optimistic he will at least get an opportunity to prove himself.
He remains a longshot to get drafted, but could get picked up as an undrafted free agent. Former Tech tackle Yosuah Nijman signed a deal with the Green Bay Packers last season and was promoted to the main roster from the practice squad for the final month of the regular season.
McClease’s original plan was to train back home in the Chesapeake area until the draft, but he came back to Blacksburg this week to continue working out for the foreseeable future.
Virginia Tech has kept the athletic facilities open for students on campus while abiding by the crowd limitations Governor Northam put in place. McClease basically has trained full-time since January while finishing up his last four classes online. He will earn a second degree — this one in consumer studies — in May.
“I’ve been focused on fine tuning the small things, getting bigger and faster,” McClease said of his training. “Just getting used to that routine of being a professional. I got a firsthand glimpse (at Bommarito) of what it’s like to be in the NFL and their daily routine. I just need a place just to continue to get better and maintain all the improvements I made down in Florida.”