McLean chooses Mocs

Friday, January 26, 2018
Marshall County Tiger Tavi McLean chose the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as his college choice to play football and study business.
Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

The most highly sought after Marshall County Tiger finally made a much-anticipated decision when Tavi McLean pledged his services to Coach Tom Arth and his Chattanooga Mocs for the 2018 season.

McLean, one of the most successful defensive players to ever suit up for the Tigers chose the Mocs over offers from UT-Martin, Tennessee Tech, Samford, Tennessee State, East Tennessee State, Mercer, Jackson State, and Murray State.

But ultimately, the decision came down to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and UT-Martin.

"It came down to UTC and UTM," McLean, who finished with 244 tackles, 34.5 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks over four years, said. "Chattanooga is just amazing, I chose Chattanooga because I knew I was going to get coached by the best and weíre going to win a lot of games this year. I really like the school, and I also have a good relationship with the coaches and players."

The Mocs, who play at the Division I FCS level, have fielded a football team since 1905 but have just now started to find true success with three of its four playoff appearances in 2014-2016 following three straight Southern Conference football championships.

The Mocs have come breathtakingly close to further postseason advancement after winning its opening game all three appearances before losing by five (35-30) to #1 New Hampshire in 2014, by six (41-35) in overtime to #1 seed and eventual national Jacksonville State in 2015, and by five (41-36) to #1 seed Sam Houston State in 2016.

In 2017 the Mocs struggled to a 3-8 (3-5) campaign, but McLean still sees a huge upside in the future of Chattanooga football but also the main reason to attend, to get an education.

"The recruiting process was fun, but stressful but I enjoyed it because I was blessed enough to get options because everyone doesnít get that chance," McLean pointed out. "I only took one official visit and that was to Chattanooga because thatís where I wanted to go and it felt like home."

"I had a great visit," McLean added. "What stood out to me the most was the business program and thatís good for what I want to major in (Sports Management). Also the players, it feels like Iíve been around them guys for years."

The Mocs play in one of the nicest football stadiums at the FCS level, Findley Stadium, which seats over 20,000 fans and was the site of the I-AA (FCS) National Championship game from 1997-2009 before the game was moved the Frisco, Texas.

McLean will be the 10th player from Marshall County High School to sign with a college in the past three years and is the second in the 2018 class to sign at the Division I level along with offensive lineman Dave Roberts who signed with Austin Peay during the early signing period.

And like the many players before him that have played for Coach Thomas Osteen and defensive coordinator Jerry Cobb and went on to the college game, McLean points out that playing in the Marshall County system has him ready to adapt to the college game.

"Playing for Marshall County the past four years got me ready for college because we prepared like a college team in high school," McLean explained. "We have really smart coaches at Marshall County and they know a lot about football. My biggest influences were my family, friends, coaches, and the whole Marshall County community. Coach Pickle was one of my main influences because he always trained me to be the best because he knew how good I could be."

"They run kind of the same scheme that we ran in high school so Iím comfortable with it," McLean added. "So I feel like I will fit in well because Iím use to running that kind of defense."

And like the thousands of players that have stepped onto Preston Hopkins Field before him, McLean will leave Lewisburg with plenty of great memories of playing for the Marshall County Tigers.

"My most memorable moments were making it to the fourth round the past three years, three time region champs, and playing with my brothers every Friday night," McLean, who finished the 2017 with 99 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and seven sacks, said. "Itís just been a blessing playing for the Marshall County Tigers."

McLean will still get to face a couple of former teammates and county brethren in the upcoming season as 2017 graduate Jay Howard will suit up for his freshman season at Citadel after taking a redshirt year and former Forrest Mr. Football finalist Slayton Wild will also begin his redshirt freshman season at Wofford in 2018.