Angus McClure is in a profession of projection and pursuit.
His suitcase serves as a constant companion, the side pockets stuffed with high school player data. He knows every back street to every playing field in Northern California. McClure's is an existence of constant motion, evaluation, charm and securing commitments, and the UCLA recruiting coordinator can't get enough of it.
"Loving this, and I'm always anxious to see more," said McClure, a sixth-year Bruins coach who also mentors defensive linemen.
A Sacramento State lineman from 1987 to 1991 and a Hornets assistant coach (1997-2003), McClure was in typical good spirits on the phone Friday morning in Los Angeles. He was moments away from a staff meeting, to "make sure all the recruiters are farming their land."
Then it was full chaos. McClure flew to Sacramento to initiate more detective work, followed by a drive to Olivehurst to watch host Lindhurst face Capital Christian High School and Nifae Lealao, a 6-foot-4, 270- pound junior lineman. McClure is also curious about Burbank defensive tackle Ngalu Tapa, a 6-1, 250- pound junior who led the state in sacks (18 1/2) heading into the weekend and dreams of studying mechanical engineering in college.
For McClure, Friday provided little time to catch up with family or friends. Networking takes precedence this time of year. The man in the UCLA letterman's jacket works the sideline, works the ear of coaches, and this morning he'll work through airport traffic for a return flight to Los Angeles. The bowl-seeking Bruins play host to Arizona tonight in Pasadena.
"You're always looking for players in our line of work the diamond in the rough or the guy everyone knows, and then you make your best projection," McClure said. "As much as people may think football and recruiting is a science, it's still projecting: how they plug into your schemes, what sort of student, what kind of character."
Nothing beats a close-up, in-person view, too. If a school is going to invest in a teenager, and if a player's projection and impact ultimately decides the livelihood of the grown men recruiting them, then recruiters want to know everything about him.
"You're looking for things you can't see on film," McClure said. "Like leadership. How does he communicate? How does he take coaching? How does he lead others? How does he behave? Does he give the ball back to the official after a play? The biggest thing is attitude.
"I love to recruit Northern California. Sacramento is really a hotbed for talent. The area continues to get better. The overall football has increased a lot in the last 10 years with some of the best talent and best high school coaches in the state."
McClure added that recruiters are especially interested in transcripts. Is the player an academic qualifier? If not, the recruiter moves on.
Body size, agility, quickness and skill set are just as paramount to the process. Recruiters don't care much for statistics or program success, debunking any theory that a player has to be on a winning team to be recognized. Talented players will be found, recruiters say.
Reports show that less than 1 percent of high school athletes playing for some 15,000 schools nationwide receive a scholarship for any sport. College football programs generally offer between 20 and 25 scholarships each year. In short, the numbers never favor the playing masses.
"It's so hard to get a scholarship, and it's so competitive," McClure said.
McClure met his wife, Erin, at Sac State. They have two sons, Hamish, 13, and Malcolm, 8. McClure was a "Hammerhead" at Sac State, the name given to offensive linemen. His sons? It's a split.
"Hamish is the quarterback for the Valley Panthers in Encino," McClure said. "He's a football player, but he's not a Hammerhead. I've lost him to the quarterback club. But Malcolm? He's a Hammerhead. He looks 12, already 85 pounds. They're both really good."
And someday, McClure may project and pursue them, too, with a unique advantage. He's in tight with their mother.
This story was changed Nov. 3 to correct Angus McClure's wife's name.