MOBILE, Ala. — Sixteen days after the deaths of two of his friends in a car accident, Warren McClendon was at the Senior Bowl, speaking with reporters and sharing that he’s been seeing a psychiatrist as he moves forward.
McClendon was in the vehicle during a single-car crash that killed teammate Devin Willock, 20, and UGA recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy, 24, on Jan. 15. McClendon and Tory Bowles, another member of the Georgia football recruiting department, survived the accident.
“It was rough for me, but I’ve been talking to a psychiatrist, and it’s been getting better day by day,” McClendon said Tuesday in his first interview since the accident. “(The therapy) is very helpful. At first, I was kind of trying to push away from it, but it’s helpful.”
Asked what he remembered about that night, McClendon said, “Really, not too much. Just when the wreck happened, I kind of got knocked down. I really don’t remember too much.” He confirmed that the four friends were on their way to a Waffle House to meet other teammates. The crash occurred hours after the Bulldogs had a parade and ceremony to celebrate their second consecutive national championship.
McClendon, an offensive lineman, talked with media members for less than three minutes on the field in Mobile before Senior Bowl public relations cut the interview short, citing a need to protect the player. McClendon said he has tried to soak in the experience and enjoy his opportunity to try to improve his prospect stock ahead of April’s NFL draft.
“I know Devin. If he was still here, he’d want me to come out here and give it my all,” McClendon said.
McClendon carried Willock’s memory with him, in his heart and on his chest in the form of No. 77, the number Willock wore. The Senior Bowl assigned McClendon No. 77 in Willock’s honor. McClendon wore No. 70 in college.
“It was a no-brainer,” McClendon said. “After everything happened, I was like, I have to wear it for him. My brother, my roommate, I had to do it for him.”
McClendon, asked how he would want people to remember Willock and LeCroy, said: “They were both hard workers. They were both goofy, they wanted to make you laugh. They were always light in a room of dark. Every time you were down, they’d always make me laugh.”
On the field, McClendon started 37 consecutive games for the Bulldogs before an MCL injury prevented him from playing in the Peach Bowl national semifinal. But he returned in the championship game against TCU. His reliability at right tackle was instrumental for an offensive line that surrendered only nine sacks across 15 games.
“He looked amazing, as always,” former Bulldogs safety Christopher Smith said of McClendon’s practice Tuesday. “He’s a real down-to-earth guy, a hard worker. Really technical. And he was that today.”
The Bulldogs have four players in Mobile this week. McClendon and Smith joined running back Kenny McIntosh and kicker Jack Podlesny. They each begin the draft process with heavy hearts, missing their two friends.
“It’s been tough,” Smith said. “I wasn’t able to be around the team right after it happened. I had to go off to train. But my prayers and thoughts are with Chandler’s family and Devin’s family. They’ll be in my heart forever.”
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