When the Raiders made their first round selection, I think it was a surprise to many people. It was a surprise because they actually made a good pick. Al Davis and the Raiders organization have taken a lot of criticism for their selections recently and rightfully so. Last year, Davis passed on the best wide receiver in the draft in Michael Crabtree in order to take a speed-burning project that had no business being a top-ten pick. However, this year, I will give them praise. Rolando McClain was the best overall linebacker in this year’s draft and he proved it throughout his career at Alabama. On top of that, he is a tremendous leader, with a brilliant football mind, that also spent three years playing under Nick Saban at Alabama. This doesn’t really seem like a Raiders-esque move. And that’s a good thing. Move over Oakland because this year you’re not the team that’s getting laughed at after the first round. That distinction belongs to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Rolando McClain joined KHTK in Sacramento to talk about how it feels to be an Oakland Raider, how much it helped him playing in the SEC, who he talked to on the phone when he got the call, and what his expectations are for this season and beyond in Oakland.
On how he feels right now knowing where he will start his career:
“I’m ecstatic. I know the Oakland Raiders made a great choice by choosing me. I’m at a loss of words. I always wanted to be an Oakland Raider and I think this is the best situation for me. I think I’m with a pretty good team and I think we’re gonna do good things together.”
On some people questioning his size:
“As you can see in the past drafts, the SEC puts tons of guys in the NFL year-in, year-out. It’s great competition in the SEC, especially playing under Coach Saban who plays an NFL-style defense. Playing against the LSU’s, the Tennessee’s, and those types of caliber teams and the Florida’s, it ready’s you, especially with the speed of the game and the size difference. I think just playing in the SEC, I benefited from that definitely, but more than that I think I benefited the most from playing under Coach Saban. A former NFL Coach and pretty much an NFL defense.”
On whether he felt Oakland would be the team that drafted him:
“I don’t know. The Oakland Raiders didn’t really come after me as heavily as some of the other teams until this past week. Some of the coaches came down, but even then we had somewhat of a quiet vibe. But once I got the call from Coach Cable, it was obviously a reality. It’s crazy because I played for the Decatur Red Raiders in High School and I wore number eight. Now it’s ironic that I was drafted number eight to the Oakland Raiders. About three or four years ago, one of my good friends told me that somehow, someway, I was going to be an Oakland Raider. It’s crazy how God works.”
On who called him to deliver the news:
“Coach Cable. Called me and asked me if I was ready to lead this defense and be a middle linebacker for the Oakland Raiders and I said ‘of course.’ He said he was going to draft me and they drafted me.”
On what he thinks of when he hears the Oakland Raiders:
“I see similarities with the Crimson Tide. Alabama was obviously a powerhouse at one point and won a lot of National Championships and then went on a drought in National Championships and winning. Not being accustomed to losing and then they did it for like 10, 11 years there. They had a nice stretch of losing. But we came back around and now we’re back on top. I see the same thing with the Raiders. They haven’t been winning a lot lately, but just back in the ‘02-‘03 season, they were in the Super Bowl. I think everything will go back to how it’s supposed to be. When I say how it’s supposed to be, that’s back to us being a playoff team every year and getting back to that Super Bowl.”
On whether or not he is ready to get to work for the Raiders:
“I’m more than ready. Football is my safe-haven. When I’m out on the field, nothing else matters and I’m ready to get out there, strap it up, and play with some of the best guys in the world. We’re still making calls to see when I’m coming up, but I’m coming out as soon as possible. Meet my new teammates and get ready to play football.”