McClendon Curtis has always had to work for everything he has earned. A three-star recruit out of high school, Curtis redshirted as a freshman offensive lineman at Chattanooga in 2017.
From there he gradually improved to the point of earning several honors this past season as a senior, including a spot on the HERO Sports FCS All-American team. Curtis was also chosen to play in the Senior Bowl.
Measured at 6-foot-6 and 324 pounds at the NFL combine, Curtis is looked at as a potential third-day pick in the NFL Draft. If he isn’t selected, he should be a desired rookie free agent.
Chattanooga coach Rusty Wright says Curtis has many traits that will impress NFL teams.
“His versatility and wingspan and willingness to continue to improve are real plusses,” Wright said in an interview with HERO Sports. “He plays hard and moves well enough to get to the second level.”
Wright says that Curtis is a different player and person from when he arrived at Chattanooga in 2017.
“He is a self-made man,” Wright said. “He was not a great student coming out of high school and has worked his butt off and not only graduated, but he has an office in our academic counseling place, helping our guys out.”
Curtis graduated with a degree in sports management in May of 2021 and is working on his Master’s in School/Teacher Leadership. As Wright mentioned, Curtis served as a tutor in the school’s Student-Athlete Enhancement Center.
And he has the type of personality anybody would love, but one that changes quite a bit when he walks on the football field.
“He is one of those people who always has a big old smile and grin on his face and wants the best out of every day,” Wright said.
“He has a competitive streak, and he gets nasty on the field.”
Another plus is that Curtis will enter the next level with plenty of experience.
He played in 49 college games and made 38 starts – 30 at right guard, seven at left tackle, and one at left guard.
This past season he played four games at right guard and seven at left tackle. In multiple games, he played both positions.
The move to tackle was necessitated by an injury to the Mocs’ offensive line, but Wright believes that will help Curtis in the long run. While pro evaluators clearly feel he is a guard, the fact that he played tackle only adds to his potential versatility.
“In the NFL, they can only carry 7-8 offensive linemen, and showing he could play tackle if needed only helps his value,” Wright said.
Curtis tested well at the NFL combine, not off the charts, but well enough.
He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.24 seconds, with a 1.85 10-yard split. His vertical jump was 26.5 inches. Curtis did 8’9” in the broad jump. He also did 25 bench press reps of 225 pounds.
He was given a prospect grade of 5.94, which translates to an average NFL backup or special teamer.
At the combine, his arm was measured at 35 inches. That type of length is another one of his strengths.
“He’s got some long arms and is a big man and that was interesting at the Senior Bowl,” Wright said. “He didn’t look out of place and looked like he belonged there and then went to the combine and had another good day.”
Wright understands that Curtis is far from a finished product, and that could work in his favor.
“There is still room for growth and that is what is exciting about his future,” Wright said. “Many NFL people I talked to feel his best football is in front of him.”