No combine. No Senior Bowl. No problem.
Despite not being invited to the NFL scouting combine and not playing in any college all-star games, University of Tennessee offensive guard Jacques McClendon was selected Saturday in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts. The Cleveland native and former Baylor School star was taken with the 129th overall selection.
"It's the greatest honor of my life," said McClendon, noting that he had been contacted by 17 teams leading up to the draft. "I had no clue where I might go when I woke up today. I got up about 20 minutes before the draft started and wasn't nervous or anything. My mom and I were planning to have some family over for a cookout and watch the draft.
"I really didn't expect to go so early, but then my cell phone rang and it was the Colts GM (Bill Polian) telling me they were about to take me with their next pick. I got really excited and told him there was no other organization I would want to play for."
McClendon was the first of three UT players drafted on the final day. Following him were fellow offensive lineman Chris Scott with the 151st pick to Pittsburgh and quarterback Jonathan Crompton with the 158th pick to San Diego, giving the Vols six players selected in the three-day, seven-round draft.
Defensive standouts Eric Berry and Dan Williams were chosen in the first round, and running back Montario Hardesty went in the second round.
"Most people don't get to go into such a great situation," McClendon said. "To be going to a team that played in the Super Bowl last year, and to be blocking for one of the best quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning, that's a real blessing and the payoff for a lot of hard work.
"I still have my Peyton Manning jersey that I got when I was a kid and he was playing for Tennessee. And I've got a helmet he autographed that I keep at my mom's house. I know Peyton is a perfectionist, so I'll have to go in there and learn quickly and execute at a very high level."
The 6-foot-3, 306-pound McClendon went into the draft noted as much for his work in the weight room as on the field. He set a UT record by bench-pressing 645 pounds as a sophomore, and during his pro day workout for scouts he benched 225 pounds 37 times.
"He's a pretty stout guy inside at the guard position, but also one with obviously athleticism as well," said Colts coach Jim Caldwell, who also spoke Saturday to McClendon. "He's a guy we think will be able to give us some real anchor there in the middle. He's a highly competitive, extremely bright guy. He's a guy that certainly has the intellectual capability to learn our system and learn it quickly."
McClendon played in all 49 games while at UT, starting 26, including all 13 last season at right guard. He also was an Academic All-SEC selection last year and will complete work on a master's degree this spring. He said he plans to return to Knoxville this week to continue his workouts and expects to fly to Indianapolis next weekend for minicamp.
"We've taken other players who haven't been to the combine," said Polian, the Colts president. "Obviously, we don't think that's either a positive or a negative, to be truthful with you.
"He is a converted defensive lineman, so he's got a tough, physical disposition. He's very smart, can run and had a nice year this year. He played very well against Alabama and held his own against (Brian) Price from UCLA (who was taken in the second round by Tampa Bay). I don't see any reason why we don't think he can can come in and compete for a job."