CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former West Mecklenburg star quarterback Jalan McClendon has come home to continue his football career.
McClendon is a part of the Charlotte Thunder, the American Arena League team kicking off its season Saturday night against the Pennsylvania Union. The team will play eight of its 10-game schedule at home, inside Bojangles Coliseum.
Coming home was just part of the lure for McClendon, who played collegiately at N.C. State. Another reason was the team ownership group, led by former Panthers players Thomas Davis and Ted Ginn Jr.
"I’ve got pro experience with the Ravens, Redskins, LA in the XFL, but COVID hindered that," McClendon says. "This opportunity presented itself, with Ted Ginn and Thomas Davis being the owners, so I figured, why not?”
In the arena game, it's essentially eight-on-eight on a turf-covered hockey rink (without glass). A smaller field means less time and space for players to adjust. And it will be fast. McClendon has had to adjust to a different type of game.
“It’s a lot quicker than what I thought. I watched some Kurt Warner and Jay Gruden…my former head coach…watching them go at it and seeing how quickly they got the ball out," McClendon says. "Just where their eyes were, how they played the game, and their mechanics in the game. I’m still adjusting, and there’s always something to get better at."
Due to COVID-19 protocols, a sellout crowd for the opener tops out at just over 1,200 fans. The atmosphere will be different. The game itself will be different. McClendon says in spite of changes, it still boils down to just being football.
2020 was a year to forget for many people, but hope springs eternal as McClendon and his teammates finally get back to playing an actual game.
“Guys are excited. For some of the guys, myself included, this will be their first experience in the arena league, and we’re all excited just to play. Like I said, COVID didn’t help anybody, so this is the first opportunity to get back on the field. Everybody’s just excited.”
Kickoff for all Thunder home games is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, or by visiting charlottethunder.com.