Tyler McClain loves contact.
And when you’re an undersized football player, sometimes that is a bad combination.
McClain is a senior on the George Washington High School football team, and he’s had more than his share of bumps, bruises and sometimes even worse.
Freshman year, the wide receiver and linebacker suffered a fractured vertebrae.
“I was going over the middle, and I got hit when I went to catch a pass,” said McClain, a Parkwood resident who attends School Lane Charter in Bensalem, but plays football for the Eagles because it’s his neighborhood school. “I didn’t even realize it happened for a little while. It was annoying because I had to wear a back brace for a few months and I couldn’t do anything that involved being active, and that was hard because that’s what I like to do.”
The injuries didn’t stop there.
Sophomore year, he suffered a badly sprained ankle that cost him some time.
Junior year, it was shin splints that hobbled him, but he played through it.
Senior year, the only thing he’s doing is bringing the pain.
Now a running back, the 5-foot-7, 140-pound speedster is the featured back for the Eagles and he’s carrying the mail in a very successful season.
After getting blown out in its opener against Frankford, Washington beat Lincoln after the Railsplitters used an ineligible player in week two, and since then the Eagles have done nothing but win.
Last week, the Eagles wrapped up their regular season by securing the Public League National Division championship by besting Kensington 40-0.
The win sets up a rematch between the Eagles and the Railsplitterson Friday in a first-round playoff matchup. Washington will host Lincoln at 3 p.m.
In the win over Kensington, McClain found the end zone five times, giving him nine touchdowns on the season. He also rushed for 311 yards, establishing a new school single-game record.
It was the perfect way to end the regular season and keep the momentum rolling for the Eagles. In its last three games, Washington has wins over the Tigers, Overbrook and a team made up of a combination of South Philadelphia and Furness. It also has forfeit wins over Lincoln and another over Mastbaum.
“I’m not too surprised we’re playing well because we have great chemistry and we expected to be pretty good,” McClain said. “And we have some great leaders on our team, great coaches especially. If we stay locked in, I think we can put on our best. We stay focused, especially at practice, and that leads to good things during games.”
Not only does the team have talent, it has a lot of heart and nobody epitomizes that more than the undersized running back.
A track star, McClain certainly uses his speed to accumulate yards, but just because he’s not the biggest guy on the field doesn’t mean he shies away from contact. In fact, McClain often initiates it, which tends to be a surprise for his opponents.
“I’m not sure why I love the hits and the contact, I guess I just love the game,” McClain said. “It’s great to me. I feel I can take hits well and I put my shoulder down and get those extra yards. I love contact for some reason and I don’t know, it gives me adrenaline.
“I would assume some people (underestimate) me. Guys will tell me they like how I hit the hole. I guess it’s a surprise to them. When I have a big run through guys, they don’t talk trash, they say nice run.”
As all featured backs do, McClain does get his share of praise for the statistics he puts up each week, but he’s quick to hand out the praise. He knows that it takes a lot more than one guy to post impressive stats like five touchdowns in a game, and he loves to share that glory with everyone around him.
“I mean I just wanted to thank Jesus for giving me the ability to do that and give a shoutout to the offensive line for blocking so well,” said McClain, who said his faith, which he practices at Fellowship Bible Church, has played a big role in his life. “We stuck together and did our job letting me do what I do best. Running backs can’t do it alone, and I have great teammates.”
A football player since he was 8, McClain is unsure what the future holds, but he’s very interested in the thought of playing college football.
He also runs sprints, relays and hurdles in track, and that’s a possibility, too.
“I think I would like to maybe be a mechanic,” McClain said. “I like cars, working with them, but I’m not too sure. I have a few things I like. But college football is my favorite sport, I really love the action. It doesn’t have to be Division I. I would just love to play.”
He hopes he still has a long run of games left with Washington. And no matter where he plays, he’ll always be able to count on his family.
“My family has a big part of my story,” McClain said. “My parents are at every game. My grandparents and siblings come, too. My mom and my grandmom were really worried when I started playing, but they got used to it. They’re really supportive. I’m lucky.
“Senior year has been great. We’re playing well. I’m just happy I haven’t gotten injured yet. I’m banged up, that happens just from playing, but I feel really good. This year has been great.”