One of Chadron’s spunkiest athletes has returned to the profession where most of his acquaintances probably feel he belonged all along.
Joe McLain has been tabbed the football team’s offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Buena Vista, an NAIA school at Storm Lake, Iowa.
While McLain was an all-around athlete in high school, he is best remembered as the quarterback at Chadron State College when the Eagles had a 38-4 record when he started, won three straight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships and went to the playoffs and were nationally ranked each year.
Three things, in particular, stand out about McLain’s football career.
No. 1, as a true freshman in 2005, he had never taken a snap from center, was holding the clipboard charting plays when the Chadron State starter, Tyler Hidrogo suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the first quarter at Fort Lewis College.
Since the second-team quarterback had not made the trip to attend his sister’s wedding, McLain had to relinquish the clipboard and find his helmet. The Skyhawks already led 21-0, but McLain directed one TD drive in both the second and third quarters and three in the third. Fort Lewis won 42-35, but Joe McLain was the Eagles’ starting quarterback the rest of his career.
No. 2 occurred at Nebraska-Kearney in 2007. The game had been moved to Thursday night so “the whole world” could watch Chadron State tailback Danny Woodhead, who was on his way to becoming college football’s all-time leading rusher, on TV.
Things didn’t go as planned. On Woodhead’s first carry, he was injured and could not return.
Kearney jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but McLain led the Eagles to a 28-16 victory by carrying the ball 13 times for 68 yards and three touchdowns and throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass.
No. 3 came late in the 2007 season. Woodhead had returned, set the rushing record and helping the Eagles make the Division II playoffs and land a home game against Abilene Christian.
It was the most amazing game the Eagles ever played,
The Texans led 49-20 entering the fourth quarter, but the Eagles outscored Abilene 36-14 that frame to make it 63-63 and send the donnybrook into overtime. It took three extra sessions for the Eagles to win, but it happened when McLain ran 12 yards and flipped a somersault into the end zone for a 76-73 victory.
McLain had another great season in 2008 and wrapped up his career competing 658 of 1,325 passes for 8,011 yards and 70 touchdowns and rushing for 707 yards and 17 more TDs.
McLain was an assistant coach one year at Douglas (Wyo.) High, one year at Chadron High and four years at Chadron State before going into private business, mostly in Minnesota working with Paul Bailey, father of former CSC linebacker Austin Bailey.
Now McLain is back in football. Grant Mollring, a former UNK football player, is the Buena Vista head coach. He took over the program in December 2016. The Beavers were 3-7 last fall.
In a Buena Vista press release, Mollring is quoted as saying, “Joe McLain is the perfect fit to help take our program to the next level.”