In 1987, it seemed as though you couldn't read a sports section in North Carolina without stumbling across Chester McGlockton's name.
By the end of his senior season at Whiteville High School, McGlockton had grown to 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds. He was rated clearly the top college football prospect in North Carolina that year, and one of a handful of the top ones across the country.He signed to play for Clemson and North Carolinians have heard little news about him since aside from his being the central figure in a barroom brawl a couple of years ago.
Actually, McGlockton was redshirted in 1988 and played somewhat sparingly in '89, in part because of former Tiger coach Danny Ford's displeasure with what he considered to be McGlockton's obese physical condition. At one point, his weight reportedly had increased by more than 100 pounds since he left high school.
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Ford's relationship with McGlockton wasn't unlike that of Chicago Bear coach Mike Ditka's with ex-Clemson star William ``The Refrigerator' Perry.
Ken Hatfield, who replaced Ford after his 1990 resignation, was unburdened by hangups about McGlockton's weight and moved him into the starting lineup at defensive tackle when he was a sophomore last season.
McGlockton didn't distinguish himself until the last two games, when he was the dominant player on the field in wins over North Carolina and South Carolina, recording 4.5 sacks, 18 tackles - three for losses - and a fumble recovery.
And now, despite his spotty experience, McGlockton has been listed on a number of preseason All-America teams.
Through it all, he has consented to only one media interview since he arrived at Clemson.
``Chester only agreed to that one interview because his mom kept after him to give her some help in starting a scrapbook,' Hatfield said when the Atlantic Coast Conference's Operation Football media tour stopped here Thursday.
So McGlockton's no-interview policy is a major reason why North Carolinians have heard little news about his career.
Although unavailable to the media again Thursday, McGlockton found it hard to hide at Clemson's training table despite the fact that his weight has dropped from 350 to 330 since fall practice began.
His Spike Lee-Malcolm X baseball cap shaded but failed to conceal a fearsome glare.
While Hatfield says he'd prefer to see McGlockton in the 310-320 range, he isn't about to demote a defensive lineman who, even at his present size, can cover 40 yards in 5.1 seconds and bench press 500 pounds.
The Clemson coach, McGlockton's teammates and other associates in the Clemson program speak of him with awe for his physical ability and affection for his personality.
His only collegiate interviewer, Woody White of the Greenville News, described his subject as ``alternately gruff and charming, and as intelligent as any Clemson athlete I've ever met.'
There is, however, almost no disagreement at Clemson on the scope of McGlockton's football talent.
Says running back Ronald Williams, who runs against McGlockton in scrimmages, ``I try to avoid him because running into him is like hitting a brick wall. He's not gonna move; you are.'
Says nose guard Rob Bodine, who plays beside McGlockton, ``You can tell opposing offenses worry about him, and it makes the rest of us more effective. They know he can bull rush over the top of any blocker when he wants to. So when they double-team him, I usually benefit and (linebacker) Ed McDaniel plays behind him and leads the team in tackles.
Says guard Jeb Flesch, who blocks against McGlockton in scrimmages, ``He's the best athlete I've played against, ever. He's like an immovable wall. He's just blessed with so much talent and ability that he's one of those players who doesn't have to work as hard as others.'
McGlockton pleaded guilty to that charge in his interview with White last spring.
``I'm not in the best of shape,' McGlockton was quoted as saying. ``I don't work hard on the weights, and I don't practice hard.
``The reason I haven't pushed myself any harder is that I've never had a lot of competition, even though I've always reacted to competition when I've gotten it. I play well enough to win, but I haven't had to go at it very hard to play football at this level.'
Hatfield wishes he was able to challenge McGlockton.
``Chester's mother told me that he's always been the big kid on the block,' said the Clemson coach.
``He has as much ability as any player I've ever been around. His only limitations are within Chester. He needs to keep growing to a point where he always wants to dominate.
``He's like a lot of college-age people. In terms of maturity, he's still growing. He has lacked trust in other people.
``But I've seen improvement in his work habits and changes in his nature. He's becoming more open and outgoing.'
So, even though McGlockton apparently has a chance to become an even better football player than he was expected to be four years ago, he remains an enigma.