PINEHURST, N.C. – Friends, readers, fellow ACC players, reporters covering Clemson, reporters not covering Clemson and folks who mistakenly clicked on this looking for the Raskin Around blog:
Meet Eric Mac Lain. Eric, meet everybody.
No, he’s not Deshaun Watson. He’s not a quarterback (unlike Clemson’s previous two representatives at ACC Media Days: Cole Stoudt and Tajh Boyd), he’s not an all-ACC receiver or running back, he’s not even a multi-year starter along the offensive line.
He’s none of those things. He is, however, the most interesting man in the world ... if the world consisted only of ACC football players, for just one day.
During his sitdowns with print media Monday afternoon, the Tigers’ presumptive starting left guard fielded a balance of serious and silly inquiries, informing and/or entertaining with each gregarious response.
Mac Lain – or @mr_clemson as he’s known in the Twitterverse – served up zingers on why Watson didn’t show, the Tigers’ hypothetically new-look offense, his favorite follow and his rebellious bristles.
1) After a regional reporter who covers the ACC polished off a series of questions about his quarterback, I couldn’t resist. I posed the question to Mac Lain, multiple hours deep into his media days appearance.
“Have you answered more questions about yourself or Deshaun Watson?”
Mac Lain took on the persona of a security guard, which is fair, since that’s kind of his job description on the football field this fall.
“Dude, I’m here to answer questions about Deshaun. He didn’t want to talk to y’all. He sent me, and so I’m here. You ask away.”
2) Yeah, Mac Lain (probably like every other offensive lineman in the country) saw the clip of Sebastian Tretola tossing a touchdown pass for Arkansas last fall.
If the Tigers’ offensive line got together for a pickup game, Mac Lain said he’d be quarterback, no questions asked.
“I got an arm, but I’m dual threat, all the way. You think they could tackle me?” said the 6-4, 305-pound Mac Lain. (Nobody dared object.)
“No, man, I’m more of the Peyton Manning type. I call all the plays, we don’t need an offensive coordinator, I got this, then I go off what I see. Make an audible when necessary. It’s easy.”
Good to know Clemson’s got a guy waiting in the wings if Watson doesn’t work out.
3) Plain and simple, in three words or less, what does the NCAA’s new policy of unlimited snacks mean to Mac Lain? “A good time,” he said. Again, he’s over 300 pounds.
4) “I love Twitter, gosh.”
That he does. Mac Lain held the attention of 1,843 followers as of midnight – that number had grown by 50 since we met with him Monday afternoon – and he’s a bit of a renaissance man when it comes to the 351 accounts he follows.
“I follow @HistoryInFacts. It’s pretty good. They post a lot of old stuff you’ve maybe never seen,” Mac Lain said. “Other than that, probably @Forbes. I’m a Forbes kind of guy. I keep up with the world. They have very technical writing.”
5) On a serious note, Mac Lain’s a fan of the team’s self-imposed social media ban from the start of fall camp through the bowl game.
“I love that we don’t have access to (Twitter,) in regards to us participating,” Mac Lain said. “I still look at what’s happening in the world. But it is such a huge distraction. Unfortunately, bad things happen, and negativity is passed around on social media more often than not. Guys can’t voice their opinions, which maybe leads to suspensions if they get carried away and say stupid things.”
Center Ryan Norton allegedly received death threats following his bad snap in the Florida State loss last September, and deactivated his account in response. He’s back on Twitter now, but Norton was never quite the same player the rest of 2014.
“Unfortunately, Ryan cares so much about football and this team and this community,” Mac Lain said. “Something like that was pretty detrimental to him. I think you could tell the way he played suffered. It took a lot of talking from me, it took a lot of talking from Coach Caldwell. He’s definitely past it, and he’s ready to have a stellar season.”
6) Now let’s talk about that beard. It’s bushy. It’s glorious. It’s tradition.
Clemson’s offensive line likes to call itself the Beard Gang, and that’s not changing just because Kalon Davis and company graduated. Which might be bad news for one of Clemson’s highest-rated prospects ever at the position.
“We’ve already told the freshmen, if they don’t grow it out by fall, they’re off the team,” Mac Lain said. “(Left tackle) Mitch (Hyatt) is struggling, so we might have another left tackle emerging really soon. So y’all will have more to write about.
“It’s patchy. It’s ugly, man. It’s not coming in well. He needs to shave it more so it’ll grow better.”
So what’s the secret? How does Mac Lain channel his inner Grizzly Adams?
“I condition it daily, because you’ve got to keep it looking nice,” Mac Lain said. “Shampoo is vital, depending on what brand you use. I’m an Herbal Essences kind of guy; I like to keep it smelling fruity, so the ladies enjoy that.
“But you’ve got to control the beard. You can’t let the beard control you. That’s key.”
7) Wait, one last thing about Twitter we’ve got to clear up. During his discussion of social media usage, I had the urge to check on Mac Lain’s account ... only to discover something devastating.
Mr. Clemson had blocked your friendly neighborhood Post and Courier Clemson reporter.
So, without calling out the poor guy, I asked if he ever blocked those jerks and trolls who infest Twitter. (OK, not in those words, but humor me.)
“You know what I find? Twitter blocks people for you. Have you ever seen that? I’ll go through and see people that I thought I followed, or they followed me, but they don’t. It’s weird,” said Mac Lain, unwittingly explaining himself. “The only person I have blocked with intention was Kirk Herbstreit, because he said something bad about Clemson, and I said, you know what? I don’t need to see this any more. So I kicked him out.”
Later, in a one-on-one moment, I showed Mac Lain the notification that I was blocked. He looked stunned as ever, and laughed it off, as is his nature.
(Postscript: we now follow each other, it’s all good, and nobody’s blocked. Which is good, because getting blocked by a guy 6-4, 305 probably doesn’t feel fantastic.)