Back in his playing days, those who knew him thought there was little chance that big Chester McGlockton would ever become a coach.
The former Clemson star and first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Raiders in 1992, who died early Wednesday morning at age 42 of an apparent heart attack, was often an impact player on the field, using his 6-foot-4, 328-pound body at defensive tackle/nose tackle to manhandle offensive linemen, stuff running backs or get to the quarterback. Four times over a 12-year NFL career he was chosen for the Pro Bowl, all four of the selections coming during his six years as a Raider.
However, McGlockton often was thought to carry enough negative baggage to outweigh those positives.
In newspaper stories, he sometimes was referred to as “underachieving,” “inconsistent” or “moody.” When he signed with the Denver Broncos in 2001 near the end of his career, coach Mike Shanahan dismissed references to McGlockton’s “questionable reputation” or what the Denver Post called his “negative locker room influence,” saying, “Hey, I judge people on how I feel, not what other people say.”
Yet when McGlockton’s NFL career came to an end, so did the perceptions.
The big man, troubled by weight problems and injuries, dealt with both, losing more than 60 pounds, according to a San Jose Mercury News story in 2008, while turning his attention to coaching and helping others and embracing his Christian faith.
As Carl Steward of the Mercury News wrote in that 2008 piece, McGlockton was a man with a new outlook. “Sullen and temperamental as a player, he is affable and loquacious today,” he wrote when McGlockton was serving as a coach at Chabot College in Hayward.
For the past two seasons, McGlockton served as a defensive assistant coach at Stanford, first under Jim Harbaugh and then David Shaw.
His death came as a shock to Cardinal players and coaches.
“Everyone in the Stanford family is deeply saddened by the passing of Chester McGlockton,” Shaw said in a statement released by the school. “For the past two seasons, Chester has been a valuable member of our football staff and a wonderful friend to us all. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Chester’s wife Zina and their two children.”
As a defensive lineman, McGlockton could often be a game-changer.
After coming out of Whiteville, N.C., where he helped his team to a 15-0 record and a state championship, McGlockton was a force at Clemson, where he played three seasons before being a first-round pick of the then-Los Angeles Raiders in 1992.
McGlockton had 20.5 sacks in his three-year career at Clemson and was an All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection.
He went on to play with the Raiders from 1992-97, before going on to the Chiefs (1998-2000), Broncos (2001-02) and Jets (2003).
His best seasons came while wearing silver and black, with his best season in 1994 when he had a career-high 9½ sacks with three forced fumbles and 48 tackles.
“The thoughts and prayers of the Raider Nation are with the McGlockton family during this difficult time,” said Raiders CEO Amy Trask in a statement released Wednesday.
Former Pro Bowl Raiders guard Steve Wisniewski, who went against McGlockton every day in practice, said his teammate was dominating.
“There was no one in the NFL who could block Chester if he didn’t want to be blocked,” Wisniewski told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. “He had that ability to be a dominant force like a Mean Joe Greene. He was as good as they come.”
After his retirement, McGlockton had a coaching internship with NFL Europe, before coaching at Chabot, the University of Tennessee and Stanford. Along the way, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Tennessee-Martin in 2010. Wisniewski said McGlockton “matured in his years beyond football.”
In the years after he retired, McGlockton came to love coaching.
“I love to see my guys competing,” he told Steward in the 2008 story. “Even though it’s not me out there competing, it still feels as though I am.”
Unfortunately for McGlockton, however, the toll he played for 12 years in the National Football League was high. He had Lap-Band surgery to take off the weight, but every day he felt the accumulated pain of colliding with other big, powerful men on a football field.
“I still get stingers, and I haven’t played in five years,” he said in the 2008 story. “I shot my toe up so many times I can barely move it. The (Lap-Band) surgery helped tremendously, it makes me eat like I’m supposed to. But I still can’t work out or go run. It just hurts too much. What’s scary is I’m only 39. God forbid when I get to 50, 60. I’m just hoping I can walk.”