CHESAPEAKE, Va. - It's been more than five years since Deshawn McClease's final game as an Oscar Smith High School football player, but he sits in the bleachers at his former school's stadium before heading to Miami, where he'll train ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft.
“I definitely have memories playing on this field right here, these bleachers being slammed packed," McClease said, taking in Oscar Smith's Beard Delong Easley Stadium.
McClease rushed for more than 5,000 yards during his three season's on the Tigers' varsity team, a team that he wasn't supposed to be a part of.
“Being younger, I would hear so much about Oscar Smith and how they’d go to states and it was definitely a place where I wanted to be," McClease said. "I was actually supposed to go to Indian River [High School]. I talked to my parents and was like, hey, I want to go to Oscar Smith. My parents kind of stressed that, if you go over there you’re gonna have to compete, and the rest was history.”
The Chesapeake native's production as a Tiger earned him a spot on Virginia Tech's roster. He spent five seasons as a Hokie and was the team's leading rusher in 2019, accumulating 843 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns.
“My favorite part about the program would have to be just building a brotherhood and a bond with the other guys, my teammates," McClease said. "Just being up there in Blacksburg, the summertime is beautiful. When the sun sets it’s beautiful.”
In January, the sun set on his time as a Hokie. With one year of eligibility remaining he decided to declare for the NFL Draft.
“I had a breakout season and I feel like right now is the best time for me to enter the draft,” McClease said.
Between the training and mental preparation that goes into preparing for the draft, the process can be grueling.
Fortunately for McClease, he's able to confide in a few former Hokies who have already gone through the process, Terrell and Tremaine Edmunds.
“I try to pick their brains on the ins and outs of the NFL," McClease said. "Not just the football side but the business side as well. For me I believe that football is gonna open up a lot of doors for things I want to do outside of football."
McClease will find out what his football fate is come April. He hopes to hear his named called during the draft, which is held in Las Vegas from the 23rd to the 25th, otherwise he'll look to land with an NFL team as an undrafted free agent.