FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Linebacker Shea McClellin, a 2012 first-round pick of the Chicago Bears who won a Super Bowl championship with the New England Patriots in 2016, said he isn’t officially retiring from the NFL but is prepared to have played his last game because of the cumulative effect of concussions.
“I’m still staying ready, still working out. I’ve learned to never say never, there’s always a chance that I could still play again, but for now all my focus is on coaching high school,” said the 28-year-old McClellin, who has accepted a position as linebackers coach at Mountain View High School in Meridian, Idaho.
A star defensive end at Boise State from 2008-2011, McClellin said he has had five documented concussions in his career.
The Marsing, Idaho native had signed with the Patriots as a free agent in 2016 after four seasons with the Bears. He said his two years with the franchise was the highlight of his career.
“It was awesome, first year we won the Super Bowl, can’t complain about that,” said McClellin, who played in 17 games that season (including playoffs) and made headlines for jumping over the line of scrimmage to block a field goal. “Just meeting all the guys in the locker room, that’s going to be the biggest thing I’m going to miss, that’s for sure. It’s a great locker-room culture in New England. Everyone is so close there, it’s just something special. You can just tell because it transfers to the field.”
McClellin had attempted to return from the injured-reserve list midway through the 2017 season, participating in two weeks of practice, before ultimately staying on injured reserve. The Patriots released him in March with one year remaining on his contract.
“It’s difficult whenever you get an injury that holds you out, when you kind of feel like you’re good and then find out you’re not. It’s always tough,” he said. “I think it was just over time, it wasn’t just one thing. I’ve had five documented concussions, and probably more than that which aren’t documented. It was just residual effects that I couldn’t overcome, which is unfortunate. But sometimes that’s the way it plays out and you just have to deal with it.”
Explaining how last year unfolded, he said, “I was feeling good, but unfortunately had more residual effects from concussions. It’s something they can’t clear you for. That’s the way it is nowadays, they’re tough on concussion things. It’s difficult, but I got through it. One thing I’d say, they handled it like they should have. I’m not upset with them, they’re not upset with me, it’s just the way it is. They handled it perfectly.”
Asked if he has concerns about his long-term health because of concussions, McClellin said, “I think I’m going to be all right. I can’t predict the future, no one can, but we’ll see how things play out. I don’t have any residual effects from head injuries right now. I’m optimistic about it, for sure.”
McClellin, who has two sons with his wife Samantha, said he doesn’t envision himself coaching beyond the high school level, and that it is something he always considered pursuing after experiencing the positive influence of coaches Chris Petersen and Pete Kwiatkowski, among others, at Boise State.
“They were great role models for me, and the way they taught us, that’s what I want to teach these younger guys,” he said. “I just love giving back and want to be able to help these younger kids out, not just on the field, but off the field as well. Football is not life, it’s just a season in your life, so hopefully I can teach them to not just be good football players but be good siblings, father and role models growing up.”