A transcription of a conference call with first-round draft pick Rolando McClain and the local media:
Q: What was your reaction to being drafted by Raiders?
McClain: I was for the most part at a loss for words. I mean, I don’t know, it’s crazy. It’s like all the hard work I put in over the past 20 years has paid off.
Q: Have much contact with Raiders before today?
McClain: No, I had no idea really that the Raiders were that interested. All’s I know is they came down the last week and talked with me. But I don’t know, they weren’t like the other teams that I thought were interested in me; they actually brought me in for visits. I don’t know, it was just a different vibe. But when they came out last week I felt pretty strong that they wanted me. I just didn’t know how bad they wanted me.
Q: Who came out last week?
McClain: The linebacker coach and the DB coach, they worked out Kareem (Jackson) and I. We worked out and they talked with us. I know we just sat down and talked, really.
Q: Have you talked to Al Davis yet?
McClain: No, I haven’t talked to Mr. Davis. I’m looking forward to talking to him, actually.
Q: What message did Coach Cable give you?
McClain: He didn’t really give me a message, he just asked if I was ready to play football, ready to play linebacker with the Oakland Raiders. I said yes, and he asked me if I could lead this defense. Said ‘of course I can.’ He just had a couple questions. He just asked me if I was ready to be a Raider. I told him yeah, and he told me they were gonna draft me.
Q: What will you bring to this defense?
McClain: Just my intensity, not just as a football player but as a leader, teammate and friend to these guys. I’m accustomed to winning. I know these guys are, and just ready to get back to winning the way we used to win. I know the Raiders haven’t had a great season the past few years, but I mean, hey, everything’s made to turn around, everything happens for a reason, and I think Coach Cable as well as myself and a lot of these other guys are gonna turn this program around, and we’re gonna get back to winning, get back to the playoffs, get back to having fun and playing good football.
Q: Will it be hard for you to assert yourself as a rookie?
McClain: No. It’s just my personality as far as meeting guys. I’m not the most outgoing guy. I’m shy and I stay to myself. But when it comes to football, my job’s something that I love doing. I’ll do whatever it takes to win, no matter if it’s go out and yell at a guy during practice just to get everybody up, or just to get everybody together, cause we’re not on the same page on defense, to watch film. I do what I have to do in order for the defense and the team to have success. So it’s something I don’t mind doing, something I’m looking forward to. But I don’t think I’ll have too much trouble. I know the rest of my teammates are ready to get back to winning. We’re gonna start winning. I think everybody’s just eager as me to play football and begin the season.
Q: Are you aware of the Raiders’ struggles against the run and how do you think you can help?
McClain: I don’t know. I haven’t really followed the Raiders too much, but — so I don’t know how much success they’ve had against the run, but I’m sure that Coach Cable has great things on in his mind. Me personally, I’m going to do my job. I pride myself, because Coach Saban, he’s real tough on me a little bit. He prides himself on stopping the run and I pride myself on stopping the run so I think some of those there, the D-lineman and linebackers and everybody including me, I think we’re all going to do what we have to do to stop the run and make this defense real good there.
Q: Can you clarify the Crohn’s disease story? It was reported you had it, then you didn’t . . .
McClain: Well basically, when I was in ninth grade I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, but after being to the hospital the past few weeks and getting several tests done, my doctors at the University of Alabama, they don’t even think I have Crohn’s disease so I know I haven’t been affected. It’s never affected my play in practice or in a game so I’m not sure. I don’t think there’s really a test to see if you’ve got Crohn’s disease. I just feel that God has blessed me at this point. He’s been looking over me. All I can do is pray that he continues to do the same thing.
Q: How nerve wracking was it to watch the other picks go by?
McClain: It wasn’t nerve wracking at all because I was at home sitting down, playing poker with some of my friends. We were watching the draft and the crazy thing about it is I say Joe, he was crying and I saw him getting drafted and like five seconds before Coach Cable called me and said he was going to draft me, I said, ‘Hey man, I’m tired of sitting around. I want to get drafted.’ Because I saw (Joe Haden) crying and I wanted to feel the way he felt. And five seconds later, Coach Cable called me and I was drafted.
Q: How did you do in poker?
McClain: Out of 10 guys that started, I was the last two. I was actually in a hand — I was actually in a hand when I got the call. I think I ended up losing the hand, but I think we had split the chips so we end up quitting. I think I’ll end up giving them all the money. I don’t think I’ll need it now.
Q: How long have you been playing linebacker and when did you realize it was the position for you?
McClain: I started playing linebacker my ninth grade year in high school and since then I’ve been playing. I started out as an outside linebacker and up until my senior year everybody was running the ball away from me and I had to make a lot of plays running people down. So they put me in the middle where I could go both ways, and since then, since my senior year in high school, I’ve been playing middle linebacker, I’ve been accustomed to the job and I think I’ve been doing pretty good at it.
Q: What do you like about playing linebacker?
McClain: You get to hit somebody every play. That’s the best part. It sums it up. You get to hit somebody every play at middle linebacker. It’s like you’re the quarterback of the defense and you have control. And I like to be in control as far as lining everybody up and getting everybody going. I like that and I embrace that role.
Q: Do you see yourself as an every down linebacker in the NFL and is it possible some people underestimated you?
McClain: I’ve never came off the field in my collegiate career at the University of Alabama, no matter what it was. I never came off the field. The best running backs, the best slot receivers, the best receivers, I’ve guarded man to man. We don’t play much zone at the University of Alabama. I’ve done a lot of good coverage in my time and I’ve played against a lot of good guys from the SEC. I know I can do it and I’m sure coach feels the same way.
Q: Do you watch film early in the morning or late at night?
McClain: When you talk about watching film, I give 95 percent of the credit to coach Saban. He showed me what to watch and how to watch film. But my thing is I get away to the day before practice and I watch film and look for particular things. I have sort of an order of how I watch film and what I look for. I’m not going to tell you exactly what it is but I have an order of how I watch it.
Q: How has coach Saban prepared you for life in the NFL?
McClain: I give all the credit to coach Saban for me being where I am. Obviously God and my family but coach Saban has made me into the player that I am now. Not just being able to watch film but he taught me how to tackle, taught me how to read things about a particular alignment. I mean I give credit to him for doing all those things. Not only did he teach me how to be a football player but he’s a great role model for me and a father figure. He’s made me the person I am today.
Q: Talk to him since you were drafted?
McClain: He sent me a text message saying congratulations. I’m at home in Decatur. I think I’ll go back to Tuscaloosa tomorrow and I’ll see him then.