He’s been playing quarterback since he was 12 years old. He had also been playing defensive tackle or linebacker until he reached Columbia High School. So you might imagine how difficult it is for opposing tacklers to bring down the sizable 6-foot-2, 205-pound McCleary when the junior dual-threat QB isn’t throwing dimes down the field and instead tucks the football and takes off from the pocket.
Just last Friday, the signal-caller proved as much by tossing 267 yards through the air on 15-of-20 passing for 3 TDs, and rushing for 56 yards on 12 attempts and one score.
The output led the Tide to a victory over Northern Lebanon for the first time since 2012, and notched back-to-back wins for Columbia for the first time since the start of the 2013 season.
For his efforts, McCleary is LNP’s Week 9 Football Player of the Week.
But really McCleary has had the hot hand the last few weeks, as he's now accounted for 819 passing yards, 122 rushing yards and 11 TDs in the last three games.
His performances have helped the Tide improve to 3-6 overall, the most wins since 2013. One more victory would be the most since 2012. That’s also the last year Columbia made the playoffs.
Speaking of which, the Tide sit on the brink of possibly sneaking into the four-team District 3-2A playoff field if Columbia can pull off the upset in this Friday’s regular season home finale against Elco (7-2).
McCleary chatted about all of that and more at Monday’s practice in our weekly Q&A with the Player of the Week.
Q: What’s your progression been like at the QB position in recent years just as far as how you’ve gotten better?
A: “Just working on footwork, arm-strength, and off-season conditioning more often, and hitting my targets.”
Q: Where are you at in understanding this offensive system in Year Two under coach Bud Kyle as compared to this time last year?
A: “This year I feel like we have more confidence in our offensive scheme. No one is trying to be that one playmaker like we were last year. We’re all just one big family trying to eat.”
Q: What, in particular, was working for you in last Friday's 34-19 win at Northern Lebanon?
A: “Me running through the middle or throwing the deep ball, finding the receivers wide open.”
Q: Coming up this Friday, if you’re able to pull off the upset over Elco, there’s a chance Columbia could slide into the playoffs. How cognizant is this team of that? Are you talking about postseason possibilities?
A: “From the beginning of the year we were talking about postseason. From the beginning of the year we were ready to make it.”
Q: Time for some fun questions, are you working part-time anywhere?
A: “Yeah. I work at McDonald’s in Columbia. I work six-hour shifts on the weekends. I wake up at 8am and get off at 2pm.”
Q: What’s your favorite class?
A: “Probably geometry. It’s not hard.”
Q: What do you want to do when you grow up?
A: “I want to go to college. Probably want to be something with athletics. Maybe a gym teacher or athletic trainer.”
Q: If you could be any animal, what animal would it be and why?
A: “A lion ‘cuz he’s a king.”
Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
A: “Invisibility because no one would see me.”
Q: What inspires you?
A: “My family. I want to get them out of the bad parts of Columbia, get a nice house for them, make it through and just build it all for a nice family.”