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A Character With Character : Cal State Fullerton's Ron McLean Is Serious About His Football Career . . . but He Takes Everything Else Rather Lightly

November 06, 1986|JIM McCURDIE | Times Staff Writer

Marriage is the latest chapter in The Life and Times of Ron McLean. Like earlier episodes, it comes with an interesting plot twist and a splash of spontaneity.

Seems McLean decided one day that it was time he and longtime girlfriend Janelle Renee Dauphin made it official, so the couple eloped on Oct. 6. "I had always said that it felt like we were married," McLean said. "She'd say, 'If you ever asked me to marry you, I would.' So, I just did, and we did."

Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy remembers the way McLean informed him about the marriage. "He came up to me at practice and said, 'Coach, I didn't have any classes this morning so Janelle and I flew to Vegas and got married.' "

The decision hardly dumbfounded McLean's teammates and coaches. They know better than to be surprised by anything McLean says or does. After more than four years of Ron McLean, you learn to expect the unexpected.

This is a man who admits to strapping on a helmet and shoulder pads, visiting a local park and practicing his pass rush against trees. "Of course, it makes it real easy for you because the trees don't move, so you always win," he said.

This is a man who--legend has it--had his helmet and shoulder pads in bed with him when a coach made a routine bed check the night before a road game. His explanation: "They need their rest, too, coach. They have a big game ahead of them."

This is a man who has attracted nearly as much attention from his wayward way with words as his considerable ability as a defensive lineman. Return with us now to 1984, when McLean thought the Titans weren't being accorded the respect they deserved during a trip to Honolulu for a game against Hawaii. Fullerton won, 21-13, prompting McLean to ask: "When are they going to learn? They call us Cal State Disneyland and we take them right to the haunted house."

A few more recent selections from the collection of Ron McLean's Greatest Quips:

--On the protective knee braces that may have saved him from a serious knee injury earlier this season: "It's like riding a motorcycle without a helmet. You know, you don't like to wear a helmet on a sunny day. You like to ride around and be cool with your sunglasses on. But when you go down and your head slams against the asphalt, you're glad you've got your helmet on. It's the same way with knee braces."

--On deciding between pursuing a professional football career or a college degree: "I would like to go on and play some more football. That's my No. 1 goal in life--to make an NFL team. Maybe it shouldn't be in that perspective. Maybe my No. 1 goal in life should be to graduate from Cal State Fullerton. But that's not the way it is. I'm a lot better with my helmet than I am with my pencil."

--On his prospects for making it in the NFL: "You just don't know in this business. You get agents that call you up and talk to you, and they say, 'Right now, our scouting reports have you down as being a probable seventh-round (draft) pick.' And you figure, as the season goes on and your performances get better, you could go up in the draft. But this guy could be feeding you a line of (bleep). You just don't know."

--On a recent television interview in Fresno, in which the interviewer attempted to use props: "The guy came out with Mickey Mouse ears on. It was that Cal State Disneyland stuff again. I just ripped his ears off and told him of he wanted to come on down to Disneyland, the park was open from 9 to 12 every day."

As funny as McLean can be off the field, he is just as serious on it. There are plenty of Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. offensive linemen who will verify this. McLean, 6-feet 4-inches and 255 pounds, has been a starter for the Titans since 1983, his freshman season. He was a United Press International All-West Coast selection in 1984. A knee injury brought a halt to his 1985 season after only three games, but he has returned healthy and hungry.

McLean believes he is playing his best football in 1986. He has 47 tackles, including seven sacks for losses totaling 59 yards. He has recovered two fumbles and had a tackle for a safety in Fullerton's nationally televised game against Tulsa.

Murphy calls McLean "one of the most intense football players we've ever had here," and says NFL scouts ought to consider finding a way to measure his desire instead of his time in the 40. "He may not be the greatest athlete in the world," Murphy said, "but there's a lot to be said for what's inside a guy."

So what we have here is a character with character. Some of it has come naturally. Some of it has been developed through experiences in life, and in death. The youngest of five boys, his parents separated when he was in the third grade. His mother, Ann, raised the boys with modest resources.

When Ron was 16, his 18-year-old brother, David, was killed in a car accident. Ron still wears a small black patch on the shoulder of his game uniform in his brother's memory. "It's just a symbol to let him know that he's with me, even though he's gone," McLean said.

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