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Tackling college

Now: McClanahan is a trainer and mentor to high school athletes.  Photo courtesy of Anthony McClanahan
 (Photo courtesy of Anthony McClanahan / The Spokesman-Review)
Now: McClanahan is a trainer and mentor to high school athletes. Photo courtesy of Anthony McClanahan (Photo courtesy of Anthony McClanahan / The Spokesman-Review)

Anthony McClanahan is tired of all the “bullcrap” student-athletes get these days as they try to chisel themselves a future in sports.

That’s why the former Washington State All-American linebacker has started a company to help them transition to the NCAA.

“Coach (Mike) Price and Coach (Bill) Doba had our backs, like our dad,” McClanahan said about his college football career from 1990-93. “And that’s what I try to do with my company.”

McClanahan, 36 and living in Phoenix, is using his life experience in football, the entertainment business and personal training as he builds 41Sports Inc. He started the business two years ago as he was traveling during the summer to guest-coach defenders at a dozen western colleges.

The company’s namesake is McClanahan’s number: 41. He wore it at WSU, in the NFL’s World League and as a linebacker for the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders.

The number is part of his identity. He started wearing it because of his grandmother, who always told him she had 41 people in her life who took care of her.

“It took care of me when I played at Washington State,” McClanahan said.

Now he wants to take care of the kids who want to follow in his football footsteps. He gives student-athletes and their parents NCAA information packets and helps them choose a college.

“My whole idea was to go to all these schools and give players sort of an idea where to go,” McClanahan said.

Anthony “Zeus” McClanahan’s career at Washington State was dominating. His name is spattered throughout the record books. He finished as the Cougars’ No. 2 all-time leading tackler with 440.

In 1991, his second year, McClanahan tallied 23 tackles against USC in what he says was his favorite game as a Cougar. In 1993 he made the All-Pac-10 first team and was part of the nation’s eighth-best defense.

“Anything that came in front of us, it’d get hit,” McClanahan said. “And you wouldn’t just get hit, you’d get punished.”

Doba, who during McClanahan’s tenure was an assistant coach, recently said he remembered a day when McClanahan brought a dead pheasant and a shotgun into the locker room.

McClanahan laughed when asked about that. “We’d come straight from the hunt right to practice,” he said.

They’d stick their guns in their lockers, and change out of their hunting garb into their football gear. Hunting was his favorite thing about going to school in the Palouse, he says.

“It was fun shooting down beavers, it was fun shooting down ducks,” McClanahan said.

He was referring both to the animals and to his Oregon opponents. His hunting habits crossed over to the gridiron; whenever he made a tackle, he’d shoot an imaginary shotgun into the air. The fans would, too, he says.

McClanahan’s favorite Apple Cup was the famous Snow Bowl in 1992, when the Cougars punished the Huskies 42-23 in a snowy Pullman. WSU dominated Washington in a third-quarter avalanche, led by quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

“I’ll never get that (game) out of me,” McClanahan said. “I still got scars from falling in that snow, the ice cutting me.”

Right out of WSU, McClanahan went to the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent. He broke three ribs in his second game, and the NFL sent him to Amsterdam to play for the World League in 1994.

A broken finger sent him back across the Atlantic, and the Calgary Stampeders signed him. He was the CFL’s rookie of the year in 1995, but he decided he needed to stand out more. It was right about the time of the Dennis Rodman craze, so McClanahan dyed his hair multicolored. (He still has blond hair.) That earned him the reputation as the CFL’s wild guy.

A neck injury took him out of the CFL and in 2001 he landed a gig on “Battle Dome,” an “American Gladiators”-style wrestling TV show.

A native of Bakersfield, Calif., McClanahan comes from a family of football players. His father, Brent, played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1973-79. Cousin Brock Marion played for the Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions from 1993-2004.

Unmarried, McClanahan has two daughters, Aryana, 12, and Gracie, 2, and a 10-year-old son, Bailey. He also is an independent trainer, working one-on-one with people of all ages. His clients include cancer, AIDS, stroke and multiple sclerosis patients, which gives him some perspective on life, he says.

“That’s become a dream of mine, to fix people,” McClanahan said. “Lord knows they fix me.”