Deerfield star running back Kh’Ron McClain has the makings to be the school’s most prized athlete since former Herald Player of the Year Tony Zenon, who is now at Georgia Tech, walked the halls. McClain has rushed for 703 yards and scored nine total TDs so far this season, which is going well for the 4-1 Knights. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Getting to know Kh'Ron McClain
The Dynamite “Half-Dozen” Q and A
Here are a half-dozen questions for our Dynamite Dozen players about their likes off the football field:
Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: “I like all kinds of food, but it’s gotta be my dad’s full-out barbecue.”
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “Lion King, it’s just the best.’’
Q: Who is your favorite entertainer (movie star, comedian, singer etc)?
A: “Tom Hanks.’’
Q: Who is your favorite NFL player?
A: “Charles Woodson, lock-down, Charles Woodson. When he was with the Raiders, he was my favorite player when I was growing up, and I wanted to do everything just like him.’”
Q: If you were stranded on an island, who would you want to be with you?
A: “Miley Cyrus, it was a childhood crush. Plus, I really like her new hair now.”
Q: Who is the person you owe everything to?
A: “My dad. I owe it all to my dad. I got everything from my dad.’’
ALBANY --- Kh’Ron McClain’s story doesn’t read like a tale of the Prodigal Son. It’s more like a story about a boomerang with heartstrings pulling it back home.
Everyone at Deerfield-Windsor is elated McClain, a Herald Dynamite Dozen player who starts in the secondary and is electric as a tailback for the Knights, came back to DWS.
He just didn’t fit in in Atlanta, didn’t feel right or comfortable. He didn’t even play football at Hillgrove High School.
That’s right, a kid who runs a 4.4 40-yard dash sat out the season at Hillgrove, where everything from the size of the school to being the new kid in class weighed on McClain.
“I missed Deerfield Nation,’’ said McClain, who was born and raised in Albany, then left Deerfield-Windsor after his freshman year to move in with his father in Atlanta and attend HIllgrove, a Class AAAAA school at the time.
The move made sense. McClain is incredibly close to his dad, and when his father got a job in Atlanta, everyone in the family — mom, dad and Kh’Ron — agreed that he should live with Ron, who named his son and gave him everything he needed to be a success growing up.
McClain had already made a splash at Deerfield, where even as a freshman he had an impact on a team that played for the GISA Class AAA state title. Then he left.
“I really wanted to live with my dad. My dad means everything to me, and my mother agreed, so I moved in with him,’’ McClain said. “I wanted to be with him. My mom wanted me to be with him, and he wanted me to live with him.
“When I got to (Hillgrove). I talked to the football coach but then decided not to play. I didn’t play football at all. I just didn’t feel it. I felt like I should be (at DWS) playing.”
McClain then added: “I missed my team too much. I sat out that year.’’
Everything felt out of sync.
“I knew only one kid at the school, a kid I had played on a travel baseball team with that summer. It was a big school. I got lost there. I wasn’t comfortable. I don’t think anybody would be comfortable in that situation.’’
He knew everyone at Deerfield.
“You know how it is when you get to high school,’’ McClain said. “You get a group of friends and you expect to be friends all through high school.’’
While McClain sat out, Deerfield went unbeaten and finished a perfect 13-0 season with a state title. McClain not only kept in touch with all his friends on the team. He showed up at the state title game and went on the field after the game, celebrating with his friends. The first guy he saw was offensive lineman Patrick Forrestal.
“I went on the field after the game, and I gave Pat the biggest hug,’’ said McClain, who was Deerfield’s biggest fan that year. “I felt bad (because I wasn’t a part of the team), but I was more happy for them than feeling bad about it. I was proud of them.’’
The family met again at the end of the school year and everyone agreed Kh’Ron should move back to Albany.
“My dad asked me: ‘Do you want to go back?’ I said ‘yes,’ and my dad said, ‘Let’s make it happen,’ ” McClain said.
McClain’s father now lives in Augusta, but he makes the trip across Georgia every Friday night to see his son play for Deerfield, which is 4-1 and the No. 1-ranked Class AAA team in the GISA coaches’ state poll. McClain is a big reason.
“I was glad he came back,’’ said DWS coach Allen Lowe, who knew when McClain was a freshman that he might be a one-of-a-kind running back. “We thought when he was a freshman that he had a chance to be special.’’
McClain has already gained 703 yards and scored six touchdowns on just 63 carries this season. That’s 11.15 yards every time he carries the ball. He has also caught eight passes for 79 yards and scored a touchdown. And his first interception of the year last week sealed DWS’ 20-19 win against defending state champ Tattnall Square.He came up even bigger in the biggest game of the season to this point, a showdown with Stratford, which beat DWS in the state semifinals a year ago.
McClain responded with a 188-yard night on just 13 carries, and ran for two TDs. He also caught a TD pass in Deerfield’s 45-27 win.
“We thought when he was a freshman he would be the next best thing to Tony Zenon, and he has become that, and I’m not surprised,’’ Lowe said.
Zenon was The Herald’s John Reynolds Player of the Year in 2010 and now stars at Georgia Tech. He was a senior when McClain was a freshman, and McClain was Zenon’s backup on defense. They became close friends.
“We still text before all the games,’’ McClain said. “We talk before his Georgia Tech games and before my games at Deerfield. He has tried to get me to come to Atlanta to see him, and when he is here he comes by. He took me under his wing when I was a freshman. All those older guys, (quarterback) Banks Kinslow and all those older guys, took me under their wing.’’
McClain didn’t carry the ball as a freshman, but when he came back Lowe used him at times last year. He rushed for 427 yards on 56 carries (7.62 average) and seven TDs, and he also caught 18 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns. He had seven interceptions and ran two back for touchdowns. He was always a ball hawk on defense.
“I’ll never forget in his freshman year the play he made in the state semifinal game,’’ said Forrestal, a senior. “He made a diving pick at the 6-yard line to stop a drive and save the game. He was flat out, stretched out, parallel above the ground.’’
The kids at Deerfield still joke about McClain lining up on punts as a freshman and knocking the ball out of the opposing center’s hands as the ball was snapped.
“He was that quick,’’ Forrestal said. “The center would start to snap the ball and he would knock it away. He was so quick.’’
He is even quicker when he is carrying the ball.
“Any time he runs a sweep we hold our breath,’’ said two-way lineman Weston King, a senior. “We know we don’t have to be perfect on our blocks because he’s going to find a hole. He’s got a knack for finding a hole. We don’t have to open it up wide enough for a car to come through. He will find it and get through it.’’
Davis Hines, a senior receiver who also starts in the secondary, said he is amazed at McClain’s moves and even more amazed the way McClain will run over defensive backs.
“He’s so quick he’s able to make something out of nothing,’’ Hines said. “He’s not only a shifty back, but he’s not afraid to lower his shoulder and run you over. You can see the defensive back get ready and wait for the juke, and he just runs them over.’’
Colleges are starting to look at McClain, and Georgia Southern has shown a lot of interest. McClain, who hit over .300 for DWS’ state semifinalist baseball team, said he wants to play both baseball and football in college, but if he has to play one sport, it would be football.
He is a natural, but he couldn’t be more humble.
“Whenever the ball is in his hands, he just has a knack for making the big play. Some people have that knack, and he’s got it,’’ Lowe said. “And what a great kid. He’s very humble and God-gifted. He’s quiet and leads by example.
“He can explode. We were playing Stratford two weeks ago and led 17-0, and then they came back and it was 17-13, and we ran a lead play, a simple (off-tackle running play), and he exploded through them for 80 yards. He went through the hole and split the cornerback and the safety, and blew right by them. He’s that good.’’
Any time you want to talk to McClain about a big play or a dramatic run, he says the same thing — handing all the praise to his offensive line, thanking the kids who do the blocking up front. He simply doesn’t talk about himself — or to opponents.
“He’s a class act,’’ Hines said. “He brings a presence with his ability and there’s a lot of trash-talking going on from other teams at him. But he keeps his mouth shut and never says a word. He lets his game talk for him. He keeps his head and stays focused.’’
That’s part of why everyone at DWS looks up to McClain as a leader.
“The fact he’s stable on and off the field brings a lot of comfort,’’ King said. “He’s the one who produces and that’s always the one the young kids look up to, and he is a great leader in that way. We all admire and respect him.’’
Much of that respect is because McClain is so humble. He is the quiet superstar.
“A player with his ability, it takes a special person to channel all that and handle it in a way that’s appropriate,’’ King said. “And he does that.’’
McClain has a special appreciation for the game, and sports in general.
“My grandfather wouldn’t let my father play sports,’’ McClain said. “My dad wanted to play sports and tried, but he couldn’t play in high school. He never pushed me into sports but when I started playing he was always there for me, teaching me everything he knows. He was at my practices, at my games. I love him. He was always there for me, and he’s always there now. When I’m on the field in a game, I can hear him encouraging me in my mind. When I’m in the weight room, I can hear his voice, pushing me to be my best.’’
McClain pushes everyone else.
“He’s a leader and a motivator,’’ Hines said. “He is always asking everyone to go run the dunes every weekend. He’s always wanting to get better.’’
Lowe feels the best is yet to come.
“He is just now really learning the tailback position,’’ Lowe said. “He’s getting better even now. He’s learning how to run the ball, and I think he will be even better in four or five weeks.’’
That would be about the time Deerfield plans to make its stretch run to another possible state title.
“I am so glad I came back,’’ McClain said. “I missed everything about Deerfield. I just feel at home here. Now I just want to finish it with a ring. That’s what everybody plays for. You play for the love of the game and to win a state championship. You play for that moment when you can say you are the best team in the state.
“When I came back, everybody was happy to see me, and I felt like I belong here,’’ he added. “Now we want that state championship. Oh man, if we won state I don’t even know if there would be words to describe it.’’
And to win it for Deerfield?
“That would be the happiest feeling I’ve ever had.’’