McClain’s quiet personality gives Bulls unique leader

Freshman quarterback Timmy McClain is a calming presence for his teammates. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

Quarterbacks usually aren’t shy about expressing their emotions, at times even bordering on the edge of confidence and cockiness.

Whether it be an impassioned halftime speech or giving a teammate some tough love after a mistake, the man under center just seems to always have a knack for knowing what to say.

Freshman quarterback Timmy McClain, however, appears to be a bit more subdued in his interactions. Never getting too high or low and always keeping his emotions in check.

“I’m just a quiet person, really,” McClain said. “A quiet person who smiles … I ain’t going to yell at you, I ain’t going to do no yelling. If I’m mad I might yell, but that’s once in a very blue moon.

“I’m just pretty chill [and] laid back.”

Although he doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve and can be a quiet presence, it doesn’t take too long for those around McClain to realize he’s a special, unique talent.

When coach Kyle Graff joined the Seminole High School coaching staff in spring 2019, in the middle of McClain’s high school career, he was floored with how talented the rising junior was, and even took some tips from him about getting familiar with the offensive scheme.

“He helped me learn the offense when I first got here,” Graff said. “I was going to him, asking him questions [when] he was a sophomore about to be a junior. I learned my work ethic with this offense and how this team goes, through him.”

McClain started all four of his years at Seminole and tallied 6,531 career passing yards to go along with 85 total touchdowns. He also only lost five times.

Two of those losses — both in the playoffs — came against Apopka High School, a program about 20 miles southwest of Seminole that seemed to have McClain’s number.

In his senior season the script flipped. McClain finally broke through and defeated the Blue Darters in a thrilling Class 8A semifinal victory to move on to the state championship game, which the Seminoles won to complete a perfect 12-0 season. A 58-yard touchdown scamper by McClain with 3:47 left to play proved to be the difference against Apopka.

Despite his reserved manner, McClain is still able to galvanize those around him and elevate their collective level of play.

“He’s always been very introverted and to himself, but that’s where I saw the most growth in him from his freshman [to] senior year,” Eric Lodge, McClain’s head coach during his senior season, said. “He kind of emerged as a leader, getting on his teammates.”

Whenever he was on the field at Seminole, his teammates always had hope they would win with him on their side no matter the situation.

“If Timmy’s on the field, you’ll be all right,” Graff said. “I think everyone else kind of sees that about him … When he’s on the field, he brings another level of expectations or confidence to those that are on the field as well.”

After USF’s Week 4 loss to BYU, a game in which McClain led a spirited second-half comeback that fell just short, the Bulls voted for team captains. In total, four players were selected, two on offense and two on defense.

The offensive leaders chosen were senior linemen Demetris Harris and Brad Cecil, two players who have been at USF since 2017 and 2018, respectively. McClain, however, after just his first collegiate start, received the fourth-most votes on offense.

“Timmy’s special, man. Timmy’s special,” Harris said in a press conference Sept. 28. “Timmy is going to take this program far … He’s so poised. It’s like the moment’s not too big for him, it’s almost like he’s been here before.

“He’s always had it. He’s quiet, he’s reserved, he’s soft-spoken, but you can’t tell in his style of play. He’s composed, he’s poised in the pocket. He doesn’t let the moment get too big for him. He’s just him, he’s going to be real special.”

Another impressive quality about McClain, according to Graff, is his ability to accomplish whatever he puts his mind to.

It’s fairly obvious when watching the Sanford native that making plays with his legs is a huge part of his game, but that wasn’t originally the case in his first two seasons with the Seminoles.

“I remember that offseason his junior year, he was like ‘Coach, I want to run, I want to run,’” Graff said. “We told him, ‘If you get up to this weight … we’ll run you more.’

“He got up to that weight and came to me one day and was like ‘Coach, what’s up? I’m 180-185’ [and] I said ‘All right man, let’s do it’ … If he wanted to do something he was going to do it.”

It remains to be seen whether or not McClain will continue his growth as a vocal leader. The coaching staff pushes him to do so, but regardless of what he ends up doing, his mere presence itself motivates the Bulls to do better. He’s authentically him.

“Timmy is definitely the quiet type,” Graff said. “He’s the quiet leader, he leads by example. I tried to get him out of his shell his senior year … But he never became that ‘rah rah’ guy, he was just Timmy.”