TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Stephen McLendon has made a career of wreaking havoc on opposing teams' offenses. Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs, they couldn’t score one touchdown in the Super Bowl.
“To win the ultimate prize, the ultimate goal, as a Super Bowl champ, I told myself my name has changed forever its Super Bowl champ Stephen McLendon now,” said McLendon.
However, McLendon’s journey to NFL world champion was anything but conventional. He didn’t even get to play his first year of college at Troy because his ACT score wasn’t good enough.
“One of the most devastating things for me, because I felt like the game that I love was taken away from me due to something that I did to myself,” said McLendon.
McLendon realized if you want to be a champion on the field, you also have to be a champion in school. Something he's instilled in students throughout his 13-year-NFL career, including his own four children.
“If you don’t get your grades, you don’t play, I started taking those things that I learned in sports and I started taking them into the classroom,” said McLendon.
McLendon went on to open a gym in Atlanta called Team MVP, where he can be found working directly with youth on a regular basis.
“To be available to these kids, be a resource for these kids, for them to have someone to come and talk to,” said McLendon.
It’s a concept he hopes to incorporate with boys and girls right here in his new football home of Tampa.
“You have to believe in something, why not believe in yourself,” said McLendon.
From undrafted free agent in 2009 to the proud owner of a super bowl ring in 2021, McLendon says when you focus on your dreams they'll come true, and right now the focus is on winning another ring.
“We just go out there and do what we are supposed to do, play fast, play hard, play smart, and stay loyal to each other, trust each other, and believe in each other, and we’ll do the things that we already know we can do,” said McLendon.