LAKE WORTH, Fla. — A treadmill and leg-press machine are crammed into this small garage among boxes full of storage items. The bench press area sits along the opposite wall. Leaned against that wall are rakes and shovels. A shelf holding gas canisters and motor oil hangs above the bench.
This is the makeshift gym where Jarques McClellion learned how to lift weights from his father. It’s also where dozens of local athletes come — usually letting themselves in at all hours — to get in a workout.
McClellion played high school football at Delray Beach’s American Heritage School, which has produced many Division I football players over the last decade. So there’s been plenty of inspiration for McClellion in that locker room alone.
Then there’s his dad. Central McClellion played cornerback at Ohio State in the 1990s before a professional career that included stops in the NFL, Canada and Europe. Central now trains local athletes — even some who have gone on to college and NFL careers.
Now, like his dad, Jarques has left this area for a college football career. He signed with Arkansas in February and is going through his first summer workouts with the Razorbacks.
“I’ve had a lot of people throughout my life to let me know what to do,” Jarques said.
Success over everything
Assistant coach Greg Bryant arrived at American Heritage School in 2006. Since then, the program has been a success and sent several players to NCAA Division I schools. Stallions players adopted the motto “Success Over Everything” or “S.O.E.”
“The kids came up with the slogan,” Bryant said. “We live by that. We’re gonna be successful no matter what. We get better every day.”
Jarques McClellion attended public schools until transferring to American Heritage in the eighth grade in 2012. He was elevated to the varsity football team that year, so he had the opportunity to play with — and learn from — lots of older guys.
That first season, Greg Bryant Jr. and Marcus Davis were American Heritage seniors. Greg Bryant Jr. was a 5-star running back prospect who signed with Notre Dame.
Davis, a receiver, just wrapped up his career at Auburn, where he started 15 games and finished eighth in school history in career punt return average.
“In practice, there was no such thing as slacking around or having a bad day,” McClellion said. “They always told me to give 100 percent. Always be in the front of the line. Always compete no matter who is in front of you.
“It just became a part of my life.”
Inspiration close to home
Central and Tamika McClellion were both raised in the Delray Beach area by single parents and had Jarques when Central was still playing at Ohio State. Tamika and Jarques moved back to Florida while Central pursued his professional football dream, and the family settled there when his playing career ended.
Central has coached and trained local young football players for several years. Jarques’ cousin is Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers, who also played high school ball in Delray Beach before his college career at Virginia Tech.
“Brandon has always told me about different things, like how the reporters talk to him or how the coaches at that level do some things,” Jarques said.
Then there is the home gym. The part-time garage and part-time weight room isn’t air conditioned, so the garage door is usually opened during the intense summer workouts that take place there.
In addition to the middle- and high-schoolers who regularly hit up the McClellion home gym, guys who have long since ended their high school careers come by when they visit home.
“Literally, there are kids lifting up the garage door while I’m getting ready for work in the morning,” Tamika said with a laugh. “It’s like they live here.”
Now, Jarques is working out every morning in a much bigger, fancier gym at the University of Arkansas as he prepares for his first season of college football. He considered flipping to Florida after the Gators extended a late scholarship offer just before signing day, but stuck by his commitment to Arkansas. So like his dad, he will venture to another part of the country for the next phase of his football journey.
But that home gym — and the lessons learned in and around it — will be part of and drive Jarques.
“People have been there to teach me every step,” he said. “So if I mess up, it’s just because I didn’t pay attention.”
Arkansas beat writer Jason Kersey traveled around the country visiting the Razorbacks’ 2017 signees for SEC Country’s “NextGen” series. Read his past 2017 NextGen stories at this link.