Will McClay begins the 2005 AFL season with his feet firmly planted on the ground after being thrust into the role of head coach just three days before the kickoff of the 2004 season. McClay was named Desperados head coach on Feb. 5, 2004 after former head coach Joe Avezzano announced his resignation to return to the NFL. In McClay’s second season at the helm of the Desperados, he will be looking to improve upon last season’s 6-10 finish and restore Dallas to the successes the team enjoyed in their first two seasons in the league.
Before taking on the role of head coach, McClay spearheaded Dallas’s defensive attack. He was hired as the team’s inaugural defensive coordinator in 2002, and his work helped the club make two playoff appearances and win a division title in its first two years of existence. He remained the team’s defensive coordinator after taking over as head coach and, for the first time in club history, enjoyed stability in the defensive backfield.
McClay’s first two seasons leading Dallas’s defensive charge were riddled with injuries and personnel movement, forcing him to piece together new defensive units on a regular basis. With a more stable defensive corps in 2004, the defense witnessed improvements in total yards per game allowed (288.7 in 2003 to 260.1 in 2004) and passing yards per game allowed (267.9 – 2003, 238.4 – 2004) while holding steady in rushing yards per game allowed (21.6 – 2003, 21.8 – 2004). The defense also saw an increase in sacks as they finished third in the league with 19. McClay’s project for the 2004 season was to introduce former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Colston Weatherington to the rigors of the AFL. Under McClay’s watch, Weatherington was named to the AFL’s All-Rookie team, finishing eighth in the league in sacks (5.5), while leading the team with 7.5 tackles for losses, five blocked kicks and five quarterback pressures.
In 2003, the Desperados defense consistently came up big at key moments in games. McClay had to work defensive specialist Jermaine Jones into the lineup when he came off the exempt list four weeks into the season, and Jones responded with a team record 73.5 tackles to earn selection to the AFL All-Rookie team. Will Pettis also made his indoor debut and earned second-team All-Arena and All-Rookie honors for his two-way performance, while lineman Tom Briggs earned first-team All-Arena, All-Ironman and AFL Lineman of the Year honors after finishing with career-high numbers in sacks (10.5), tackles (43.5), forced fumbles (four) and pressures (eight).
Despite losing defensive specialist Hassan Shamsid-Deen for the last half of the 2002 season and having to patch together the secondary on a weekly basis, McClay was able to get the most out of his players. Dallas finished the season sixth in rush defense (10.4 yards-per-game) and eighth in interceptions (17), while holding three teams to 226 total offensive yards or less – including limiting Carolina to 166. In only eight games, Shamsid-Deen posted five interceptions and was named �ADT� Defensive Player of the Week twice, while lineman Shante Carver and defensive specialist Kareem Larrimore were named to the All-Rookie team.
In addition to his work with the Desperados, McClay also works in the Dallas Cowboys scouting department grading players on other NFL teams. Prior to joining the Desperados and Cowboys, McClay was the Assistant Director of Pro Scouting for the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his one season with the team (2001), he was charged with scouting NFL teams Jacksonville did not play and advance scouting work.
Before joining the Jaguars, McClay served as the player personnel director of the XFL’s Orlando Rage, as well as a consultant and scout, in the spring of 2001. The Rage finished the season 8-2 before falling in the first round of the playoffs.
Prior to moving into the personnel side of professional football, McClay spent 11 seasons in the AFL as a player and coach. He served as defensive coordinator and director of player personnel for the Grand Rapids Rampage in 1998. He added the title of assistant head coach in 1999, when the Rampage improved to an 8-6 record after posting a 3-11 campaign the previous season. In 1997, he was the defensive coordinator and director of player personnel for the Anaheim Piranhas after serving as the defensive coordinator for the Milwaukee Mustangs in 1995 and the Florida Bobcats in 1996. McClay was the secondary and special teams coach of the Detroit Drive in 1993, helping the team reach the ArenaBowl. From 1989-92, he was a wide receiver/defensive back for the Drive, helping lead them to three ArenaBowl titles in four appearances.
McClay was a four-year letterman and team captain as a defensive back at Rice (1985-88), starting every game of his collegiate career. He graduated in 1990 with a degree in political science. McClay was born Oct. 13, 1966 in Memphis, TN.