One of the most explosive players on the UW roster, McClatcher says he feels great after recovering from a broken ankle and a previously undisclosed knee injury from 2017.
For the first time in nearly 10 months, Chico McClatcher on Tuesday afternoon suited up in full practice gear — shoulder pads, leg pads, helmet, purple No. 6 jersey.
“Man, it’s been awhile,” the Huskies’ junior receiver said. “I’m just blessed and grateful to be out here with my teammates and competing at a high level.”
McClatcher’s return to the field has been a long time coming — and longer still since he’s been able to suit up fully healthy. When, he was asked, was the last time he could honestly say he was 100 percent?
He thought for a moment. He settled, finally, on September 2016.
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It was in the Huskies’ breakthrough victory over Stanford on Sept. 30, 2016, that McClatcher injured the MCL in his left knee, an injury that limited him the remainder of his sophomore season.
Then in September 2017, he tore the ACL in that left knee — a previously undisclosed injury. He missed one game, against Fresno State, but played with the injury a week later at Colorado. And it was during that game in Boulder that McClatcher went down with a broken ankle in that same left leg.
The broken ankle he could not play through, ending his 2017 season.
“I was down for the first two months, wishing I was out there with my team,” McClatcher said after practice Tuesday. “But a lot of people go through injuries. (New York Giants receiver) Odell Beckham went through the same (ankle) injury. (UW teammate) Jordan Miller went through the same injury. It’s all about how you respond mentally and how you commit yourself to the rehab part of it.”
Are you curious to see what the UW offense looks like with McClatcher in it again? More to the point: Are you curious to see what the UW offense looks like with a healthy McClatcher in it?
You’re not the only one.
“I think everybody knows how explosive he is and how tough he is,” UW offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said. “When he touches the ball, anything can happen.”
Despite the MCL injury in 2016, McClatcher still led the Pac-12 in yards per reception (18.5) that season, posting 31 catches for 574 yards and six total touchdowns in helping the Huskies win the conference championship.
Hamdan was the Huskies’ receivers coach in 2016, then left last year to be quarterbacks coach of the Atlanta Falcons. He’s back now, in his new role, and McClatcher is, too.
“I’ll be honest with you: I missed Chico when I was gone,” Hamdan said. “There’s no other way to say it. You spend any time with the kid — he really doesn’t say a lot, but he’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever been around. So take the football side of things out of it, but I do know how important the game is to him, and it’s really good to have him back.”
McClatcher is one of the most well-liked players in the UW locker room, and the Huskies hope he is the difference-maker that was missing at times in UW’s offense in 2017.
“It’s a lot of fun (having him back),” senior tailback Myles Gaskin said. “That dude is a funny dude anyways … and to have him back in the full swing of things just puts a smile on your face. It’s just another piece of the puzzle that we need.”
A 5-foot-8, 181-pound Federal Way High product, McClatcher has been eased back into the workload during the first five practices of fall camp, taking only limited snaps during team periods. The goal is to have him back at slot receiver, finally healthy again, for the Sept. 1 opener against No. 10 Auburn.
“I feel great,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m very excited. I just want to find a way to make my team better and help us win games.”