By Matthew Asher
Ryan Todd McClure, C #62
Weight: 296 lbs.
College: Louisiana State (LSU)
Experience: 14th year
Offensive linemen are often the unsung heroes of a football team. If the game goes well for their offense, not much is said about the job the linesmen did. On the flip side, if a quarterback is sacked numerous times or a running back fails to net any significant yardage, the criticism seems to always fall on the same linesmen.
It’s unfair because next to the quarterback, the center is the true field general for his offense. The quarterback may audible plays to the eligible receivers if he sees something he doesn’t like, but the offensive line has to figure out the new blocking scheme to best suit the audible. With longevity coming at a premium for any football player, having one you know will give you not just a good season, but a good decade is a godsend to any team. For the Atlanta Falcons, that player is in the form of starting center Todd McClure.
How dependable has McClure been for Atlanta? Take out McClure’s rookie season when he was injured in training camp, and he has missed just one game for the Falcons. Of the 194 games he’s played for Atlanta, he has started 191 of them including nine-plus seasons without missing a start.
McClure grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He attended Central High School where he was a two-way lineman. McClure stayed in Baton Rouge for college as he attended LSU. McClure saw limited action his freshman year. He was the reserve center until Marcus Carmouche’s was injured with three weeks remaining in the season.
Todd started every game for the Tigers as both a sophomore and senior. In his junior year, McClure started 10 games. When his collegiate career was over, McClure had totalled 185 knockdowns and was a consensus All-SEC first team selection for both his junior and senior years.
Despite the SEC accolades, McClure wasn’t a highly coveted linesman. Atlanta drafted McClure in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft with the 237th overall pick. As mentioned above regarding his longevity, McClure suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during training camp. The injury kept him from playing for the entire season.
The 2000 campaign was the real start of McClure’s NFL career. He played in 10 games that season including starting seven of them. His first start came against the Carolina Panthers in Week 9 of the 2000 NFL season.
McClure started in 22 consecutive games before missing the final game of the 2001 season due to a foot injury. From 2002-2011, McClure would start every game for the Falcons. From 2003-2006, McClure and the rest of the Falcon offensive line were responsible for the Falcons leading the league in rushing all three years.
While part of the reason for the Falcons success on the ground was due to Michael Vick being the quarterback, the running backs, specifically Warrick Dunn and TJ Duckett, for Atlanta fared very well during those years. Three running backs, Michael Turner, Warrick Dunn and Jamal Anderson have all rushed for more than 1,000 in different seasons with McClure as the center. Dunn accomplished the feat three times from 2004-2006.
McClure’s streak of consecutive starts came to an end in 2011 on Sept. 11 against Chicago at 148 games. The previous franchise record for consecutive starts was held by Keith Brooking, who had 128 from 200-2008.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.