Atlanta Falcons RB Jase McClellan ‘ready to work’

Jase McClellan entered Bryant-Denny Stadium in fine form.

It’s October 2, 2021, and McClellan is the No. 2 running back for the nation’s No. 2-ranked team, the Alabama Crimson Tide. McClellan, then a sophomore, was tied for first on the team and third in the SEC with five total touchdowns.

McClellan left the day heartbroken – and on crutches.

The Aledo, Texas, native suffered a torn ACL, ending his sophomore season. In Alabama, there is no guarantee of additional opportunities. McClellan, once at the top of the food chain, suddenly found himself facing an uncertain future.

“It was just a difficult process,” McClellan said. “It was one of my first injuries, and it was so serious, I just didn’t know how to treat it. Having to talk to people and see what to do. I just trust the rehab, I trust the process.

“It just made me stronger, made me want to keep going.”

On April 27, 2024, McClellan sat behind his computer screen, sporting a white t-shirt and the inner pride of being a newly drafted member of the Atlanta Falcons.

Over the next two and a half years, McClellan rebuilt himself.

In 2022, he was the Tide’s second-leading rusher, hauling in 112 carries for 655 yards while tying for the team lead in touchdowns with seven. He followed suit with an even better 2023, leading Alabama with 180 carries for 890 yards and eight scores.

McClellan, 5-foot-10, 221 pounds, finished his career with 1,981 yards and 18 scores on the ground, with 40 receptions for 409 yards and six touchdowns through the air.

McClellan played on special teams each of his four years at Alabama; he believes he can play all four downs, noting that he brings a balanced style of play — an assessment that Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot agrees with.

“A natural runner,” Fontenot said. “A physical, strong back who has three downs in terms of what he can do in the passing game – he can pass, he can guard, he can catch the ball. I’m very excited about him, another top makeup artist.

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The Falcons first met with McClellan at the NFL Combine and then held Zoom and phone meetings afterward. The Atlanta think tank, led by Fontenot and head coach Raheem Morris, said he liked McClellan’s style of play and wanted to add him to the room.

So, with pick No. 186, Atlanta did it.

“We love the runner,” Fontenot said. “Intelligent, tough, versatile, natural runner, the way he runs the ball, the way he hits it but also the fact that he can protect. He is intelligent. He can catch the ball. He has versatility.

Morris went into the analysis with a one-word assessment: endurance – exemplified by both his recovery from injury and his running style.

For the Falcons, McClellan’s skill set mattered as much as his position value.

During the pre-draft process, the Atlanta front office examines the success rates of each position in each round. There is a strong track record, Fontenot said, of late-round running backs developing into productive players.

The Falcons are also intrigued by McClellan’s tenure at Alabama.

In the seventh round of last year’s draft, Atlanta selected another Crimson Tide starter in safety DeMarcco Hellams, who started four of his last five games as a rookie.

So, in an effort to sign a player capable of contributing throughout his four-year rookie contract, the Falcons opted for McClellan.

“We’re excited about him, excited about the makeup,” Fontenot said. “We like to take players from Bama; we took one last year and it worked pretty well.

Now, McClellan enters a room led by Bijan Robinson, last year’s No. 8 overall pick, and Tyler Allgeier, a 2022 fifth-round selection who set the franchise record for rookies with 1,035 rushing yards. ground before taking on a complementary role in 2023.

There’s also running back and return specialist Avery Williams, who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered last June.

But for McClellan, having a talented and competitive room isn’t a problem.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to learn and work with other great running backs,” McClellan said. “Nurture each other and improve each other. »

Throughout his time in Tuscaloosa, McClellan helped the Crimson Tide go 49-6 and finish in the top five each season.

The Falcons haven’t made the playoffs since 2017. Fontenot and Morris plan to change that.

And McClellan, with a balanced skill set and four years of experience with one of college football’s top producers, is ready to be part of the solution.

“They’re recruiting a good all-around player,” McClellan said. “Someone who comes ready to work. I’m ready to help this team win.