After writing my first article The Resurgence of America’s Team, I started looking more into journeyman Will McClay’s road to becoming the Senior Director of College and Pro Scouting.
Although born in Memphis, Tennessee, McClay would spend his adolescent years right outside of Houston, Texas. He would stay locally for college and start all 4 years (1985-1988) at defensive back for Rice University. After college ball, McClay was picked up by the Detroit Drive of the Arena Football League where he would help capture 3 Arena League Titles in 4 appearances.
After his playing days were over, the Drive kept him on as the secondary and special teams coach in 1993. Over the next few seasons McClay would bounce around as Defensive Coordinator for the Milwaukee Mustangs, Florida Bobcats and Anaheim Piranhas. While with Anaheim in 1997, he began to try his hand in the management side of football and became Director of Player Personnel. The following season McClay would join the Grand Rapid Rampage in the same capacity before being promoted a year later to Head Coach.
In 2001, McClay set his sights on the XFL as the Director of Player Personnel and Scout for the Orlando Rage. It is worth noting that while in Orlando, McClay assembled an 8-2 team that clinched the first seed in the playoffs only to fall in the first round.
After Vince McMahon’s one-year wonder of a football league fell apart, McClay was able to make the jump to the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Assistant Director of Pro Scouting. While in Jacksonville his main duty was to scout the teams not on the Jaguars schedule in an effort to expand scouting reports.
In 2002, McClay joined the Dallas Cowboys player personnel department as well as Defensive Coordinator for Jerry Jones’ expansion AFL team, the Dallas Desperados. He maintained both jobs until 2004 when McClay was promoted to Head Coach. Over the next 5 years he produced 4 winning seasons and was named Coach of the Year in 2006.
After the league folded in 2009, Jerry Jones kept McClay on the Cowboys staff serving in various capacities reviewing tape and compiling extensive scouting reports. Highly regarded within the organization as a workaholic and having a keen eye for talent, the Cowboys essentially created a position for him when he was named Director of Football Research, a position which no longer exists.
From 2011-2013 McClay’s main focus as Director of Football Research was to scout players on the other 31 NFL teams. It was through his efforts that the Cowboys have been able to find success with players like Ernie Sims, Laurent Robinson, Justin Durant, Nick Hayden, George Selvie, and Rolando McClain. Players who were seemingly plucked from the NFL’s land of misfit toys. Players whose careers were in jeopardy but could fill a role on the Cowboys roster.
In 2014, after a Draft Day disagreement between the scouting department and coaching staff, McClay was promoted to Assistant Director of Player Personnel and given the keys to the War Room. As I alluded to in my first article, his presence on draft day has been surely felt. Former oil tycoon turned GM Jerry Jones is no longer trying to strike it rich with players from smaller schools or taking on big persona’s like Johnny Manziel to increase sales.
When all 9 draft choices in 2014 came from big football programs, McClay had this to say about his picks, “I think it was important for us to say, if we’re trying to build this thing and get to a point where we can win now, who has been able to handle the pressure of a big time program? Who will most likely be able to come into a situation like the Dallas Cowboys and the microscope that we’re under with all the games we play on national TV, and not, pardon the expression, pee their pants? We want grown men that are able to handle the situation.”
We now live in an era where McClay and company will put in more than their due diligence to walk away with the best player available. After an abysmal defensive effort from the Cowboys in 2013, McClay elected to take OL Zack Martin stating, “You’re never one player away, you always want to solidify your team, and we approached it (the draft) with that strategy.”
Martin would later be named to the All-Pro team as a rookie.
In May 2015, McClay was promoted to his current position as Senior Director of College and Pro Scouting. Once again this offseason the front office took a financially responsible approach to assembling this season’s team.
Their boldest move by far was their unwillingness to pay NFL leading rusher, Demarco Murray, any more than they thought he was worth. Murray would later sign with division rival Philadelphia for $40 (26 guaranteed) million over 5 years, while Dallas elected to keep trucking with our current stable of running backs along with Free Agent Darren McFadden who signed an incentive-laced 2-year/$3 million contract. The front office had the luxury of making this type of decision because of the tireless work McClay and company have done building one of the best offensive lines in the league.
While the coaching staff is getting the team ready for the regular season, and Jerry is smiling for the cameras, Will McClay will undoubtedly be in the film room, scouring the pro and college ranks for the next diamond in the rough. And that’s the way he prefers it.