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March 10, 2010TUSCALOOSA _ Former University of Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain never missed a start. He led the Crimson Tide in tackles the past two seasons and his senior year was named team captain, unanimous first-team All-American, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and Butkus Award winner as the nation's best linebacker.
All of which made Wednesday's admission that he's had Crohn's Disease since his freshman year in high school even more remarkable.
McClain disclosed the ailment after cutting short his workout at Alabama's Pro Day inside the Hank Crisp Facility, although he did participate in most drills and ran the 40-yard-dash in approximately 4.68 seconds.
"It's not something that can affect me if I take my medication," McClain said, adding that he's been completely upfront with all NFL teams about the ailment. "I take about four or five pills a day."
He also disclosed that the hamstring injury which kept him from running at the recent NFL Combine was initially sustained against Tennessee in October.
"My teammates never knew about it, I never missed practice or a game," he said about the hamstring. "It never showed. I was never 100 percent, I'm still not quite 100 percent, but I wanted to show all these scouts I could run."
Crohn's disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that usually affects the intestines but may occur anywhere from the mouth to the end of the rectum. Symptoms depend on which part of the gastrointestinal tract is affected and range in severity during periods of flare-ups. They can include abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss among others. Most patients with Crohn's disease will need bowel surgery at some point.
Among those diagnosed with IBD include Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard, former San Diego Chargers kicker Rolf Benirchke, former Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals tight end Chris Gedney, and NFL players Shayne Corson, Theo Fleury and Kevin Dineen. Non-athletes include Former presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, and Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready.
"You can never tell," former teammate Cory Reamer said. "That's the thing about Ro, You can't tell if he's hurt or not, he's going to fight through it. He's going to show no signs of weakness.
"Today was just one of those days that was too much for him. He did his drills real well, moved real well, real fluid."
Although no results were released, NFL.com reported that he weighed 249 pounds, ran 4.69 and 4.68 in the 40, had a 35-inch vertical leap, a 9-1 broad jump, 4.41 short shuttle and 7.19 three-cone drill.
McClain hoped to run a 4.5, which would top the fastest time among linebackers at the Combine. He plans to come back and run again when Alabama hosts make-up sessions on March 23 and 30 for no other reason than it's his personal goal.
"That just shows what I've been doing my entire college career is fighting through it, my toughness, my stubbornness to never give up," McClain said. "I didn't want to be watching on the sideline. I wanted to show them what I can do, I wanted to compete. I wanted to, real bad, compete against some of the best guys in college football.
"I think I did all right, I think I can do better."
Meanwhile, 17 other former Tide athletes worked out for scouts from all 32 NFL teams, along with general manager Jerry Reese, head coach Tom Coughlin and linebackers coach Jim Herrmann of the New York Giants, a team needing an inside linebacker and has the No. 15 overall pick in the upcoming draft (April 22-24).
Also on hand were general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets, Carolina head coach John Fox, Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and defensive line coach Bryan Cox, and Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson.
For some it was a chance to improve their scores from the NFL Combine and ease any concerns teams may have, while others were hoping the national championship and quality of overall talent might get them extra looks.
"The conference you play in, to win the conference, to win the national championship, that always comes into play," Fox said. "You want guys who know what it takes to win."
Or as Nick Saban put it, "When you're on a winning team you have a team full of winners."
As for the other players (no times or scores were released):
Terrence Cody: After weighing in for the Senior Bowl at 370 pounds, and 354 at the Combine, the nose tackle reported at 348, which my make him a consensus first-round selection again.
"Just being disciplined in what I eat," he said. "Doing extra work after my workouts, at least two hours of cardio after my workouts.
"The main thing is you have to be motivated. It's easy to say you're going to do it and you get out there and it's getting hard and you're going to quit. I've just motivated myself. After what all the critics said at the Senior Bowl, that I'm not going to do it, I'm not this, I'm just like Andre (Smith), I took all that personally."
Cody benched 22 reps, but said he pressed too much at the wrong time and thought he was capable of 30. NFL.com had him running 5.64 and 5.62 in the 40, with a 22-inch vertical leap and 7-9 broad jump.
Kareem Jackson: With the "pressure off" after running 4.48 at the Combine, the cornerback decided to let his time stand.
"I think Kareem has helped himself a lot with the way that he worked out and the time he ran at the Combine," Saban said. "If there was question about him as a player it was probably what's his flat speed. Some people may be able to determine what his playing speed is, but he ran a good time that probably made the decision he made a good decision.
"If he wouldn't have run a good time, it might have made it a bad decision. So there's always a little bit of a risk in this and we always want guys to stay in school if they aren't first-round draft picks. I still think that's a good rule of thumb."
Marquis Johnson: After not being invited to the Combine the cornerback showed flashes during his workouts despite coming off meniscus surgery from an injury sustained against South Carolina, and thumb surgery.
"Nothing blazing," he said. I'm a strider.
"It'll come back."
Roy Upchurch: The running back in yellow shoes may have been the big winner Wednesday when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51, which would have been a top-10 time at the Combine.
"I was shooting for a 4.4, but I was close," Upchurch said. "I did 16 on the bench. I started off a little slow, but I had a decent day today."
Eryk Anders: He worked out at both defensive end and linebacker, but wasn't thrilled with his 40 time in the 4.6-4.7 range.
"I wasn't sure what to expect, I just wanted to come in here and do the best that I could," he said. "There's room for improvement so I'll be back out here on the 23rd."
Mike Johnson: Despite coming off a shoulder injury the offensive lineman benched 21 reps and went through all drills.
"I started training two days after the national championship game and it's nice to slow down and kind of end on a good note," Johnson said. "I thought I did well today."
He ran 5.31 and 5.34 in the 40, 5.05 short shuttle and 8.16 three-cone drill.
Javier Arenas: The cornerback/return specialist only weighed in after sustaining a hamstring tear at the NFL Combine. Despite being frustrated, Arenas has no target date for trying again.
"I can never do enough to be honest with you," Arenas said.
Colin Peek: The tight end was slowed by a hamstring injury and frustrated by running the 40 in 4.94 and 4.93 seconds. He weighed 252 pounds, had a 34.5-inch vertical leap, 9-4 broad jump, 4.39 short shuttle and 7.23 three-cone drill. Peek did not talk to reporters.
Justin Woodall: The safety ran the 40 at approximately 4.6
Reamer: Didn't seem too pleased with his 40 time near 5.0, but numerous scouts talked with him after going drills.
Brandon Deaderick: The defensive lineman did not go through drills because he's still recovering from shoulder surgery. He's expected to work out on the 23rd.
Lorenzo Washington: The defensive lineman ran the 40 in approximately 4.9.
P.J. Fitzgerald: The punter ran the 40 once in roughly 4.7 seconds.
Ali Sharrief: The safety ran approximately 4.8.
Chris Rogers: The cornerback ran in the 4.8 range.
"I just want a chance," Rogers said.
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