SEATTLE – Junior Adams recruited Chico McClatcher both at Eastern Washington and Boise State.
Four years later, McClatcher will finally play for Adams at Washington.
That’s not even the improbable part.
After leading the Pac-12 with 18.5 yards per catch (to go along with 574 receiving yards and six total touchdowns) in his sophomore season in 2016, McClatcher’s junior campaign buckled under the weight of a torn ACL and a broken ankle. He temporarily left the team last October after producing just nine catches and 134 receiving yards in eight games.
The 5-foot-8, 183-pound senior admitted on Tuesday that a part of him considered calling it quits.
Instead, he weathered the storm and came out clean on the other side.
“Last year it kind of was (like a job),” McClatcher said of his attitude toward football, in his first interview since stepping away. “I was going through some personal things, on and off the field. I didn’t feel like I was playing to my expectations. My body wasn’t feeling right. I was dealing with some things with family and everything.
“I just took a step back and realized the important things in my life. I talked to (head coach Chris Petersen) and coach Adams. I came back, and I’m feeling good right now – mentally and physically.”
On Tuesday, surrounded by a slew of cameras and recorders, McClatcher credited both coaches with encouraging his eventual return.
“Coach Petersen, he’s a great person and a great teacher and coach,” McClatcher said. “He’s one of a kind. I’m blessed to have him as my head coach. During that time he was very understanding of my situation and mentally, what I was going through. He got me through it. I’m just blessed to be here.”
Of Adams, UW’s first-year wide receivers coach and former assistant at Boise State and Eastern Washington, he added: “I don’t look at him as a coach. I look at him as a brother.”
On Tuesday, family was a familiar theme. The Federal Way, Washington, product said that while he was away from the team, his family encouraged him to maintain a positive attitude.
Oh, and McClatcher mentioned his football family, too.
“It’s always family with this team,” McClatcher said, donning a dark purple practice jersey, with sweat dripping off his black headband and onto the Husky Stadium turf. “These guys are my brothers. I’m just happy I’m playing with them.”
The Huskies must be plenty happy, too. After all, McClatcher has been one of the standouts in Washington’s first five practices of fall camp, showcasing the trademark explosiveness that yielded 936 total yards and 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons on campus.
Of course, it’s far too early to conclude that McClatcher is operating at the same level he reached in his sizzling sophomore season.
Or is it?
“I have those good memories of him in ’16, and I think he’s right where he was there,” second-year UW offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said. “That’s a guy everybody’s pulling for. He doesn’t say a whole lot, but his work ethic speaks volumes for this offense.”
On Tuesday, for the first time in months, McClatcher spoke publicly.
But behind the scenes, his production in practice has been sending a message all its own.
“He practices so well, day in and day out. I think that’s what you guys see,” Hamdan said. “Certainly, the guys you see out here who take that game approach in each practice, they’re going to improve. That’s the thing that jumps out to me about him. He plays at one speed. He always has ever since 2015 when he got here. We’ve just got to keep him healthy.”
That will always be a lingering concern for McClatcher, who suffered injuries to his ACL, MCL and ankle in his first two seasons on Montlake.
But physically, mentally, emotionally, McClatcher said he’s stronger than ever.
Improbably, he’ll get to prove it on Aug. 31 against Eastern Washington – the first program to which Adams recruited him.
“I feel like I haven’t lost a step yet,” he said. “Right now. I’m just glad to be back.”
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