Overshadowed in recruiting, WR Munir McClain already impressing at USC
Through just two preseason practices at USC, freshman wide receiver Munir McClain has perhaps created more buzz than he did during the sum of his recruitment.
After McClain committed to the Trojans in April of 2018, while recovering from a torn ACL and meniscus, no other college football programs tried to sway him off that pledge. Even when he again showcased his abilities in his return from injury -- totaling 10 touchdowns and 659 receiving yards in just nine games last fall for JSerra HS -- the leadup to the early signing period was unusually quiet for a prototypical 6-foot-4 wideout with speed, sure hands and good film.
More to the point, though, he was also overshadowed even within USC's own recruiting class.
Ballyhooed 5-star prospect Bru McCoy seized the headlines with his much-anticipated commitment and subsequent roundtrip transfers to Texas and back, 4-star WR Kyle Ford made his own high-profile commitment announcement on national TV in January, fellow 4-star WR Drake London drew extra intrigue as a two-sport star who will also play basketball for the Trojans and then former 4-star commit Puka Nacua commanded his turn in the spotlight in the leadup to National Signing Day before flipping to Washington.
If any of that fazed McClain, though, he's never shown it. He's soft-spoken and laid-back, but with a palpable self-assurance and confidence to him.
Besides, he and his mother note, he didn't need any extra attention during the recruiting process -- he had already accomplished what he sought.
"He knew where he wanted to go so that was the beauty of it," said his mother Shan McClain. "He knew exactly where he wanted to go, and he wasn't all into how many offers he can get. One offer, if that's where he wanted to go, that's where he was going to commit."
McClain, who held 10 offers overall before his recruitment quieted with his injury and USC commitment, said: "If [other programs] really wanted me at their school they would have came and talked to me. They didn't so they didn't really want me as bad as they wanted other people."
He adds that choosing USC was the "best decision" he could have made, but also it was the culmination of the master plan that started when his older brother Abdul-Malik McClain, a 4-star defensive end in the 2018 class, landed with the Trojans.
"When you know what you want, that's what you shoot for," Shan McClain said. "I really already knew what I wanted for them, and when offers were coming in I already knew that I wanted the boys to be together. So I said, 'OK, I want them to be together … so why not shoot for the stars,' you know? So that's what I did."
Whether it was his 3-star recruiting ranking, the fact that McClain was following his brother to USC or the other high-profile wideouts in the Trojans' class, whatever combined the keep him a bit under-the-radar doesn't much matter now -- if it ever did.
Again, it's taken a mere two days of preseason camp for observers to notice and remark on the tall wideout with perhaps better-than-expected speed who seems to catch everything thrown his way. And just two practices for McClain to get brought up in coach Clay Helton's media session, as he and fellow freshman receiver London were Saturday.
"When you watch Drake and Munir over there with [veteran WR Tyler Vaughns], it's nice to see," Helton said. "... They're really competing and that's what we asked everybody to do -- don't act like freshmen and we're not going to coach you like freshmen. You came to compete right off the get-go, and that's what those two kids are doing."
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'It's just genetic. It's in our blood. It's in the genes'
For that matter, Shan McClain's children -- including two younger siblings -- have always competed athletically, as far back as they can remember.
"I put a basketball and football in their hands when they were small, so it's kind of like starting from the cradle all the way up. I knew they had it in them," she said of her eldest boys, sitting in the family's Ladera Ranch home earlier this summer with Munir before he headed off to USC.
Her father Lawrence Williams, the boys' grandfather, was a college basketball player at Texas Southern and then UNLV, under legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian, she said. It's hard to find detailed records from those years, but sports-reference.com shows Williams contributing to the 1973-74 Rebels team.
"It's just genetic. It's in our blood. It's in the genes," said Shan, who competed in track. "I'm a competitor by nature, maybe it comes from him, so I just loved sports. I love to win and I loved to win trophies and medals. When my kids won trophies and medals it was all great. This is what I've been living all my life."
But she knew the biggest prize would come in the form of college scholarships.
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