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Enduring Fixture


The Falcons' "Iron Man," owner of the franchise record for most consecutive starts, ironically began his NFL career with a season-ending knee injury.

On the very first day of training camp just a few months after being drafted by the Falcons in seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft, McClure tore ligaments in his knee and was placed on Injured Reserve a few weeks later. But despite being shelved for his entire rookie campaign, the gritty former LSU Tiger bounced back in year two, taking over as the team's starting center in Week 6 of the regular season.

Little did then head coach Dan Reeves know at the time, but putting McClure into the starting lineup that day against the eventual Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams created a fixture in the middle of the club's offensive line for over a decade.

McClure's 144-game streak ended on the first game of the 2011 season, as a recent knee surgery sidelined him for the first two games of the year before he could resume his starting role in Week 3. He would only miss one more game for the remainder of the season, and while his streak was broken, McClure cemented his legacy as an intelligent, tough and durable player who is as much a leader as he is a reliable on-field performer.

McClure was twice named to USA Today's All-Joe Team, a collection of players announced at the end of each season that are unheralded for the job they do.

In 2006 McClure earned his first All-Joe honors. On McClure, Larry Weisman wrote: "Durable veteran has started 80 consecutive games and 95 of the last 96. Falcons have led NFL in rushing the last three seasons."

Again in 2010, the center was named to the team. Again Weisman wrote: "Always shows up for work, starting a team record 144 straight games while blocking for a Pro Bowl backfield."

Because he's the longest tenured player on the Falcons roster, he's seen a lot of players come and go over the seasons. One position where he's seen a lot of talent is running back and as Weisman noted, McClure was the leader of an offensive line paving the way for top-ranked rushing attacks.

McClure has blocked for three different running backs that eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in a season. Michael Turner, Warrick Dunn and Jamal Anderson were all lucky enough to run behind McClure. Turner accumulated three 1,000-yard seasons (2008, '10-11). Dunn achieved 1,000 yards in three straight seasons from 2004-2006. Jamal Anderson ran for over 1,000 yards in the 2000 season.

Joining Joe Hawley as the team's centers so far for the 2012 season, McClure returns for his 14th season. Hawley is among many players, including quarterback Matt Ryan, that directly correlate much of their learning process in the NFL to the presence of McClure.

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