Coach Q&A: Defensive graduate assistant Stefan McClure
The HillTopics continues its "Coach Q&A" series with former NFL safety Stefan McClure, currently serves as a defensive graduate assistant for SMU.
Stefan McClure has a long football resume as a player, but he admits coaching is a completely different business. The defensive graduate assistant on head coach Sonny Dykes' staff was a three-year captain at Cal before bouncing around in the NFL.
With stints with the Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions and then-Oakland Raiders, McClure is now finding ways to use his playing career to get his start in the coaching ranks. Joining the SMU staff in January of 2019, McClure has worked with the defense and, more specifically, taught the position he played of defensive back.
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His relationship with Dykes started in 2013 -- when Dykes was the head coach at Cal -- and has continued in the form of letters, texts and calls throughout his NFL career. As the next feature in The HillTopics' "Coach Q&A" series, McClure spoke about how he got to SMU, his early vision of being a coach and the program as a whole. He also got into some of his "unwinding" pastimes, which include makeshift workouts, competitive card games and pouring through past playbooks.
How do you use your experience as a player to help in your transition to the coaching role?
You really just try to pass that knowledge. Everything I know, I just try to pass it to the players as best I can without overloading them. At the same time, though, being a player is completely different than being a coach. There was a lot, and still is a lot, I had to learn about being a coach. I had to learn how to connect with them and make them play hard.
There is that old saying, "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." So really, it is just about trying to show them that I care about them and any information I am sharing is for them.
Your relationship goes back to your time at Cal with Coach Dykes. When did you start talking about being his GA?
I feel like I have a very good, strong relationship with Coach Dykes. I have known him since 2013, and we stayed in contact when I was in the league. He would write me good luck in camp and stuff like that. When I got released that last time from the Lions, he was like "Hey, I saw you got released. If you want to come GA at SMU, let me know."
That was sometime in October. I had a couple of workouts lined up and I was going to see what happened. I told him I would let him know at Thanksgiving if nothing happened. So, then it got to Thanksgiving and nothing stuck for me, and we just started rolling from there. It all started in January 2019.
Coach Dykes knew back in college, dealing with a few of the injuries I had, that I always wanted to coach. He always told me that I wanted to coach he had a spot for me on his staff to let me start. He has kept his word on that and I am grateful.
What made you want to be a coach?
I had a few different coaches in college -- three different DB coaches, two DCs and two head coaches. Just having those coaches and seeing how they impacted me in my life, as a football player and a young man, I just always knew I wanted to impact someone's life like that. I wanted to give back to the game, and football is such a great game in teaching you life lessons.
Even at those summer camps we would do at Cal -- and our kids do now -- you get to coach. We had a high school once, and I got to coach high schoolers. I just fell in love with it. Being able to coach those kids, there is a great feeling. Seeing them being able to make a play and seeing how excited they get. They understand there is a process and how much work they had to put in to make that play. It is just great to see them grow even in just a weekend or a spring.
What types of things do you do, on a personal side, to unwind and relax?
There has been a lot of relaxing and unwinding. I tried to watch some movies, but it is tough for me just to lay around. So, I have been trying to work out with the band workouts I can do at the house. Core and pushups, stuff like that. I was at my parents for a while organizing the garage and putting stuff in the shed. It is really hard for me to unwind.
We played a lot of card games, Phase 10. That is a great game if you haven't played it. A little long, but it gets the competitive juices flowing. Uno and Phase 10 [are big]. Then, of course, I have been working on some playbook type of stuff. I am trying to better myself as a coach, learning. I am never going to have time off like this again, so it was good to just start coming up with different things that I think are good. I have been taking different playbooks and looking at stuff that I think is good for when I am a position coach and a DC.
What is one thing at SMU that stands out to you?
Our coaches, we preach a family environment. We care for our players. That is one thing you don't always know how it is going to be from place to place. One thing it does well is we show love, tell them we love them. We just try to be available for them.
Our kids play really hard for us because they know we genuinely love them. We love them more than football players. For me, I am young enough that they are like my little brothers. And our coaches treat them just like their kids. They open up their home and different things like that.
TRACKING THE HILLTOPICS' COACH Q&A SERIES
March 8: DLs coach Randall Joyner
March 15: TEs coach Josh Martin
March 22: WRs coach David Gru
March 29: Safeties coach Trey Haverty
April 5: RBs coach Ra'Shaad Samples
April 12: CBs Kevin Curtis
Today: Defensive graduate assistant Stefan McClure