By Kevin Wittner
Arizona Athletics Media Relations
When senior tight end Clarence McRae was entering his junior year of high school, his mother moved the family from Deltona, Fla. to Tucson, so she could tend to her sick mother. Although McRae’s father stayed behind in Florida to keep working, McRae had a new authoritative figure waiting for him when he arrived.
McRae’s uncle Robert Summerset coached at Pueblo High School where McRae enrolled once in Tucson. McRae thought that he had worked hard back in Florida, but he says it was his uncle who pushed him “over the edge” by working with him an extra 30 to 45 minutes after every practice in high school.
The work ethic that Summerset implemented into his nephew has helped propel McRae from a junior college player at Arizona Western to a Wildcat walk-on following his sophomore season. Although McRae received numerous scholarship offers from smaller Division I-AA universities, he chose Arizona.
“I’ve always wanted to play here,” said McRae. “I finished high school here in Tucson and it’s been a dream of mine to be a Wildcat.”
While the jump to the Division I level was eased by McRae’s relentless effort, it was not made without any obstacle.
“My biggest struggle was telling myself that I could do it, and making myself believe I could do it,” McRae said. “I was always a good athlete, and a lot of other people believed in me. Getting myself mentally tough enough to compete at this level brought me here.”
On the final day of spring ball, McRae was named the Most Outstanding Newcomer and earned a scholarship in his first semester. “It felt great,” McRae said. “The coaches and other players noticed my work ethic, so they rewarded me.”
Although the 23-year old McRae has endured coaching changes over his tenure with the Cats, his approach and intensity have maintained.
“I think he’s a great team player,” said Head Coach Mike Stoops. “He plays awfully hard and has contributed in a lot of ways. He’s very unselfish, and he’s just a very good football player.”
Fellow senior tight end Steve Fleming said of his teammate: “He comes to work every day. The biggest thing that he brings is smiles to the locker room. He’s one of the best locker room guys we’ve got.”
Despite being part of a program that has not compiled a winning season since 1998, McRae is confident that his teammates and the coaching staff are ready to turn things around.
“Arizona has always had a chance to win. This year, we’ve lost a couple games that were really close,” McRae said. “We’ve had the opportunity to win, but didn’t execute. In the future, we will execute those opportunities, and turn those games into W’s.”
McRae believes that the turn around starts up top, and the Wildcats have the man in place to right the ship.
“Coach Stoops brings excellent intensity and dedication to the program,” said McRae. “He is building the foundation for what this program is going to be in a few years, and pretty soon this program will be a powerhouse.”
The six-foot-two, 242-pound senior says the Wildcats cannot afford to get off the track of Stoops’ new program, no matter the results. “If you lose, get back up and come work harder so the next time you come out you’ll win,” he said.
McRae’s attitude and leadership by example will help turn the program around. Tight Ends Coach Steve Suprrier Jr. acknowledged the sometimes-unnoticed contributions of McRae.
“He brings good leadership,” said Spurrier. “He’s as good a leader as Steve Fleming is for us. He’s a very reliable, very smart guy. You know when you ask him to do something he’s going to get it done.”
McRae, a family studies major, looks to use some of his leadership abilities and what he learned from his uncle in his future career: coaching.
Although Spurrier was unaware that one of his current pupils wants to enter into the profession, he said that he can certainly see qualities in McRae that will make him successful.
“Coaching is all love. He loves the game, loves to play, and loves to come to practice,” Spurrier said. “He’s a smart guy and would certainly have an opportunity to coach.”
McRae’s career in an Arizona jersey will be over soon, and though the teams he’s played on cannot be called successful, he looks back on his time in Tucson with a smile.
“Every day is a memorable moment in my days as a Wildcat,” McRae said. “I enjoy being around my teammates, coaches, and this whole program.”
McRae’s road to and through Tucson has not always been an easy one, but as he has learned, bringing a work ethic that includes perseverance and reliability and makes things easy for everyone. Turns out, spending an extra 30 to 45 minutes after practice does pay off.