By Nate Allen
FAYETTEVILLE – Calling Arkansas Razorbacks junior D’Vone McClure plucked from nickel back to linebacker becomes not only an accurate summation but a timely pun.
For the native of Rixey and graduate of Jacksonville High has been “Pluck” the vast majority of his life.
“My auntie gave me the name and it stuck,” McClure said. “I go back to Jacksonville and nobody calls me D’Vone. Everybody calls me Pluck. Literally, that’s all I’ve heard since the fourth or fifth grade Really before that. D’Vone – I probably wouldn’t even answer to that back home.”
Pluck certainly describes him.
He’s been a pro baseball player released and pluckily resumed football at the UA. He’s been a little-used at receiver then idled, but returned lettering on defense at nickel and now figures at linebacker.
“I am resilient,” McClure said, smiling. “I’m persistent.”
Off the field, the brother among six siblings is set to graduate in three years this May with a communications degree while eight months adjusting to fatherhood of son Kabe.
Fatherhood is the biggest and most satisfying adjustment.
“My kid, Kabe McClure, born in November,” McClure said, beaming. “I told him, ‘I’m a grown man now for real. I’ve got somebody looking up to me.”
Of course on age, Pluck ought to be used to folks looking up to him.
He’s 25 on a team with some 17-year old freshmen.
Better “Pluck” than “Pops” it would seem.
“They’re going to call me Pops,” McClure said. “They are going to call me that for sure. They call me Pluck, Unc, Granddad. They call me a lot of things.”
A Jacksonville football star even better at baseball initially signed by Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks but drafted by and signing with the Cleveland Indians in 2012.
Released after four years and a .219 batting average, McClure started switched gears to football as a receiver and mainly special teamer for Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks in 2016.
But with just one game and no catches and just one tackle on special teams as a 2016 stat, McClure walked away from football in 2017 and just went to class.
“’ I’ll graduate in May in communications,” McClure said after a recent August practice.
School went well during but discontent reigned in that year away from athletics.
“I took that year off and I was just empty,” McClure said. “Like I was without a piece of life. Now that I’m back this is what I do. I love being here. It’s an honor to be here.”
Last season under Coach Chad Morris and defensive coordinator John Chavis, McClure returned on defense at nickel back. He played every game, starting six and making 26 tackles, breaking up three passes and forcing a fumble.
With the linebacker numbers pointedly thin last spring, McClure was position switched in the summer to weakside Will linebacker contesting with sophomores Bumper Pool and Hayden Henry.
“They needed depth in the linebacker room and that was the move that was made,” McClure said.
So long as the move remained defensive receiver, it was fine with McClure.
“It’s more me,” McClure said of his 2018 return moved from receiver to defense. “These dudes at receivers are running 4.2s and 4.3s. I’m just more of a linebacker. A bigger guy more physical. My body fits me on that side. It just fits more my demeanor.”
He’s especially more of a linebacker now bulked to 6-2, 219.
“I’ve put on a lot of weight moving to Will linebacker,” McClure said. “But if I had to I can still play nickel and they know that.”
And they do.
“He doesn’t have to worry about his weight, running around with the little guys right now,” Cooper said. “But he’s somebody who at times could come out there (nickel) and still help too.”
Meanwhile, McClure likes where he plays.
“I’m flying around and playing a lot faster because I’m not having to do the things I do at nickel,” McClure said.
What’s the biggest adjustment to Will?
“Just your eyes and your keys,” McClure said. “Whether reading the close side guard or the back. Being on the boundary I feel is a little easier. Not as much space. Honestly, I don’t want to sound real cocky but I think I’m going be a dude there.”
That’s Morris’ hope.
“He’s making that transition from nickel over to Will and doing some really good things,’ Morris said. “It really is more of a comfortable position for him into that boundary spot. Really pleased with him.”