The Evolution of Shea McClellin


It’s a brisk day here in Idaho. The wind whistles as it rips through the wine country air. It was here that a professional football player rose from the dirt. It was here that the hometown hero was shaped.

It was here that Shea McClellin became who he would ultimately become.

It has been just over three and a half years since former Chicago Bears General Manager Phil Emery selected the Boise State Bronco nineteenth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. The selection stirred up controversy. Many draft experts claimed that McClellin fit best in a 3-4 defensive front. Some also believed that Shea was not a first round talent.

There was only one consensus thought amongst all experts – Shea McClellin is a versatile football player.

That very moment that McClellin walked up to the podium, shook NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand and grabbed the navy blue and orange number one jersey there was hope. There was belief. There was promise.

Nov 27, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Bears outside linebacker Shea McClellin (50) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The transition to the Windy City would be harder than expected. McClellin failed to meet expectations during his first two seasons in a Bears uniform, and was later converted from defensive end to the outside linebacker position.

Soft spoken, shy, and at times almost intimidated, some believed that Shea was not cut out for life in the NFL. This is where McClellin turned to his safe haven. The only place that Shea had known, and the place that he once arose, Idaho.

Shea Keegan McClellin was born in Caldwell, Idaho. McClellin’s mother was not prepared to raise Shea, nor was his father in the picture – Shea was raised by his grandparents since the age of eighteen months, and was adopted by them roughly three years later.

It was here that McClellin was molded. He loved the outdoors. He became a local legend at Marsing High School; where he lettered in baseball, basketball, football, and track & field. Shea played running back, linebacker, punt returner, kicker, and punter for the Huskies. In addition, McClellin was named the 2A Western Idaho Conference Offensive & Defensive Player of the Year.

Shea comes from a bloodline that has athleticism flowing through its veins. His biological mother, Laura, was a third place finisher in the Idaho State Cross Country Finals. His father, Jon Youngblood, was a wide receiver at Boise State before an injury derailed his collegiate career.

He met his current girlfriend in the fifth grade when she was nominated class president, and Shea was the VP. In his free time Shea enjoys watching television, hunting, being outdoors, snowboarding, playing video games, and working out. His favorite meal, as he states, “Anything ‘ma cooks up.”

When you’re able to make it to the NFL in a town of just over one thousand residents, it’s a big deal. McClellin graduated from a high school class of 36.

It was was here, in this small town, that McClellin looked at his position change as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) is tackled by Chicago Bears outside linebacker Shea McClellin (50) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

McClellin began to train with world renowned personal trainer, Scot Prohaska. By way of a combination of workouts, dieting, and lifestyle changes, McClellin was able change his body composition in what seemed overnight. Starting at 266 pounds at 17.5% body fat, Shea shaved off over 10 pounds and 8% body fat in only a few months.  Shea was ready to embark on his new journey.

In a year of hope, McClellin once again underwhelmed. Accumulating only 24 total tackles in 13 total games at outside linebacker. It looked as if the Bears were ready to close the book on their once promising first round selection. When the front office that drafted him was shown the exit door, McClellin’s future got even more cloudy.

Enter Vic Fangio.

The highly regarded defensive coordinator saw something in the former Boise State product that no one else saw. He saw a middle linebacker in McClellin. Rumblings around Halas Hall displayed a level of discomfort with the idea amongst Head Coach John Fox and General Manager Ryan Pace. Fangio was adamant. He would later get his way, and appoint McClellin the duties of calling the defensive plays.

Many do not know this, but McClellin graduated from Boise State with a degree in Communications.

McClellin has stated that he prefers to lead by example then by being vocal, but felt this was a way for him to break out of his shell. When asked on how he calls the plays McClellin said “Its just the normal way. Give them the play twice, just a ‘Ready!’ and then everybody claps.”

Aug 14, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears linebacker Shea McClellin (50) during the third quarter of the preseason game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Since his transition to inside linebacker, McClellin has elevated his game. Accumulating 47 tackles, along with a forced fumble, in seven games this year. Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio recently called McClellin a “Stud” after the teams week ten win against the St. Louis Rams.

Former Bears great, Brian Urlacher, stated his admiration for McClellin in a recent radio interview, “He kept his mouth shut. I liked him for that. He was out of position from day 1, he has more athleticism than I did when I played.”

The jury is still out on McClellin. It is yet to be determined if he will ever reach the heights that were dreamt of when he held up that number one jersey on draft day back in 2012. However, things seem to be on the rise for number fifty.

It’s a brisk day here in Idaho. The wind whistles as it rips through the wine country air. This small town can truly put into perspective how slim of a chance one has to make it out.

However, this will always hold true. Shea McClellin will never stop trying to prove that a kid from a small town in Idaho can make an impact in this league.

The Shea McClellin evolution is not over, it may very well just be getting started.

Next: Chicago Bears Draft Watch: Could The Bears Draft Corey Coleman?