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Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
Warren McClendon Jr. signed in the class of 2019. He continued the family legacy of playing in Athens.

Homegrown: Family roots now run 44 years deep for Warren McClendon Jr. with UGA

EDITOR’S NOTE: This original Warren McClendon Jr. profile story continues a special series in partnership with Georgia Farm Bureau profiling homegrown talent from the state of Georgia.  To access other HomeGrown Talent articles please visit the series hub on DawgNation.com. 

Warren McClendon Jr. was involved in a different recruiting tug-of-war between Southeastern Conference schools about 14 months ago.

The Brunswick High graduate signed with Georgia in December of 2019. He made his commitment in July of 2018.

He characterized that as a clear family decision. But this is just going to be different than a lot of the typical recaps when it comes to that.

He joined the Georgia class as a 4-star offensive tackle. The 247Sports Composite ratings pegged him as the nation’s No. 20 OT and No. 227 overall prospect for 2019.

DawgNation can trace his recruiting story back to seeing him as a freshman in 2015. The assignment then was to go check on future Army All-American OT and Georgia signee D’Antne Demery.

Demery was very good, but the ceiling for McClendon seemed even higher. Especially to be so young at that time.

It is a story that requires a few numbers to frame up correctly. Those would be:

  • 43 years between signing days (1975)
  • 14 years since another McClendon played at UGA (2005)
  • A 90 percent Georgia Bulldog family

The McClendon name has a clear legacy at Georgia. His uncle, Willie, signed with the Bulldogs in 1975. He was quite the running back “Between the Hedges” in Athens.

McClendon set the single-season rushing record for Georgia in 1978 with 1,312 yards. It broke the record set by 1942 Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich.

That record was then smashed in back-to-back-to-back seasons by a fella with the last name Walker. Willie McClendon went on to a professional career that lasted four seasons. He backed up Walter Payton with the Bears and even went on to be an assistant at Georgia for a time under former coach Ray Goff.

His nephew Warren McClendon committed and signed with Georgia 43 years later. The McClendon roots have grown significantly over those years when it comes to the Bulldogs.

Warren McClendon Jr. even estimates that 90 percent of his family are still die-hard Bulldog fans.

Tyrone McClendon, another uncle, signed to play with UGA in the 1980s, too.

If that was the beginning and the ending of the timeline, it would seem a lot less complicated.

This is not one of those recruiting stories, though.

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Warren McClendon Jr. stood out for his reps at the Nike Opening finals in the summer prior to his senior year. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

The family decision for Warren McClendon Jr. 

This recap will carry some drama by taking into account the other 10 percent of his family.

It was very hard for the 6-foot-5, 310-pounder to tell the offensive coordinator of the South Carolina Gamecocks last July that those 43 years run pretty deep among the McClendons.

That was his cousin. Bryan McClendon was a receiver, an assistant coach and then the school’s interim coach in the gap between the Mark Richt and Kirby Smart eras.

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McClendon was already on the radar as one of the top young prospects in the state back in the fall of 2015. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

McClendon had been recruiting his cousin, Warren Jr., to play for him since he was in the eighth grade.

“Well, it was tough,” Warren McClendon Jr. said last fall. “It was really tough. Just sitting down with him and telling him basically I wasn’t going to come to South Carolina. It was really tough. But once we sat down and talked over the phone I just kind of explained to him how I chose Georgia over South Carolina.”

“Then he just basically talked to me and started saying that he was proud of me and stuff.”

“Even though I didn’t go to South Carolina he was still proud of me. He said that he understood my decision and that kind of took a lot of the pressure off me when I talked to him.”

Bryan McClendon signed with UGA in 2002. His time at UGA was from 2002-2005. He had 35 catches for 529 yards and six touchdowns as a senior on the 2005 SEC Champions.

The conversation came full circle when he told his cousin that he was basically going to make the same decision that Bryan did.

And that Tyrone did. And the same one that Willie did, too.

“It was basically that,” Warren McClendon Jr. said. “It was basically the same thing. He went to Georgia so he kind of understood about the decision that I made and why I did what I did.”

“But it was still really hard saying no to my cousin. He had been recruiting me since the eight grade. It was just really really hard.”

The decision was always a tie between Georgia and South Carolina. For the longest time. But the Bulldogs kicked away from Carolina down the stretch.

He committed on June 16, 2018. The decision materialized a short time before that.

“Over the summer just kind of taking visits Georgia was just able to push their way into that first spot,” he said.

The Georgia line coach, Sam Pittman, was a key factor in this one. The Bulldogs started to create separation when he made a visit to check out spring practice.

“It was just getting to one of their spring practices and talking to coach Pittman and coach (Kirby) Smart and all of the other different coaches,” Warren McClendon Jr. said. “Just being around the players and the team and stuff like that.”

He wound up graduating from Brunswick High School with honors.

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Warren McClendon signed with Georgia in December of 2018 in the early period. He enrolled in January of 2020. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Warren McClendon on becoming a Bulldog

This was a very contested recruitment. In a lot of ways. The family connection only multiplied that.

But as he put it, he had some strong interest in South Carolina. But Bryan and his immediate family were the only non-Bulldogs in the family. That made up that 90/10 ratio.

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Former UGA letterman, assistant coach and current South Carolina offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon was a central figure in his cousin’s recruitment. (STEVEN COLQUITT/UGA)

McClendon even shared that he thought his long family history was going to be a big factor during his sophomore and junior years.

His cousin Bryan is a tremendous recruiter. He is a great coach and a leader of young men. But that red and black had at least a 39-year head start on his best-recruiting pitch.

Warren Jr. chose Georgia in mid-July of 2018. He was a silent commitment for at least a few weeks prior to that.

“It was just an amazing feeling knowing that you were part of something special and something that had been so special to my family for the longest time,” he said.

He played right tackle and left tackle for the Pirates in his senior year. McClendon even worked at the center spot during the 2018 season.

McClendon enrolled early in January of 2020. He was a part of the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class on the 247Sports Composite ratings.

Pittman recruited him to play tackle in Athens.

“If I am able to play tackle, then that is cool,” he said. “But really it is all about being able to help the team in whatever way that I can.”

The Georgia line coach made a big difference here in this recruitment. Yet again.

“Coach Pittman just really pushed hard for me,” Warren McClendon Jr. said. “He made it feel like a home and then with my family background it just pushed it all over the top for Georgia.”

It was so close and his work was so important here that if Pittman was the line coach for the Gamecocks, then this might have gone another way.

“Yes, sir,” McClendon said. “That was pretty much a big factor for me here with Georgia.”