Jarques McClellion grew up a Florida State fan in a Florida State family. The problem was all of the state’s Big 3 schools viewed him as a receiver. McClellion saw himself as a cornerback.
When he entered the transfer portal in December, McClellion jumped at the chance to move to Tallahassee.
“Being a Seminole has been in my family, in my bloodline,” McClellion said on Tuesday. “We’ve always been Seminole fans since Day 1. Since I was a baby I wanted to play for Florida State.”
For the Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage standout, and a prospect who the big schools thought was a receiver, the phone call from coach Mike Norvell just hours after the 6-foot, 184-pound McClellion entered the portal was a dream come true. When he got the offer to come to FSU, he had to double check.
“I was still in shock at the moment. I was still talking to Coach Norvell and I asked him, ‘So, coach, does that mean I got the offer?’ He was like ‘yes, of course.’ Wow,” McClellion recalled. “So I asked to call him back real quick. And I called my mom. She was like ‘So what did he say?’ I said ‘I guess I’m going to be a Seminole.’ And the whole family, I had all my siblings, my father, everyone, jumping. Just happy I was coming back home to the state of Florida.”
McClellion appeared in 24 career games (20 starts) for Arkansas and made 59 tackles, an interception and had 11 pass breakups. He opted out of the 2020 season, saying on Tuesday he was in quarantine twice but never had COVID. McClellion said he felt alone and was far from home at Arkansas, explaining that he and his family made a decision for him to attend a college closer to home.
The fit also made sense to Norvell, who is reshaping the defense and, in particular, the defensive backfield by landing Jammie Robinson (South Carolina), Brandon Moore and McClellion.
“Jarques has great length and brings a ton of experience having played 1,500 snaps in college,” Norvell said. “He is a former high school wide receiver from Florida, and we’re happy to have him back home.”
McClellion may have been playing college football at Arkansas, but he always kept up with FSU through the years. The school’s recent on-field struggles did not deter, and McClellion said he had watched games and knew what the defensive backfield at FSU looked like before making a decision. He discussed his desire to get to work, putting in time on the practice field and weight room and referenced past stars in the secondary like Deion Sanders and Jalen Ramsey.
While McClellion made an impression in high school as a receiver, he said a number of his family members played defensive back — including a cousin, Brandon Flowers, who played at Virginia Tech and then played for the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers from 2008-16.
“My family is all defensive backs and I didn’t want to be the only one to stand out and be the receiver in the group,” McClellion said. “I felt like all the techniques they thought me at a young age, I could buy-in and play it as well just like them.”
McClellion wants to build bonds with teammates that he thinks will help get the team back to prominence on the national stage. He fondly recalled the 2013 national championship season, too.
“We made sure we watched almost every Florida State game,” McClellion said. “The championship game, I still have that hat of when they won and held up the crystal ball. We watched that game. We wouldn’t miss that.”
McClellion recalled his first trip to FSU, either in the sixth grade, with his mom, grandmother and younger brother coming up for a football camp. At the time, “it felt like home” and he recalled telling his mom: “This is where I want to go, this is the school I want to land at and build my legacy. It just felt like home, and ain’t nothing has changed. …When I stepped foot back on campus on Jan. 2, it felt that same way from me being the sixth grader to my last two years in college, it felt like a blessing. I’m just happy.”
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