CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Every catch. Block. And Step.
It all comes with years of practice that led up to that moment.
For Panthers defensive back Robert McClain, art is an escape from that regimen.
“There’s no intentery,” McClain said. “No 6 a.m. wake up call.”
It’s not what you might picture a five-year NFL cornerback would do with his free time. And if you’re surprised, you’re not alone.
“It's always kind of like a shocking reaction at first,” McClain said. “Sometimes, I tell them I'm an artist, and they're like ‘OK he doodles and stuff.’”
But then you get a look at McClain’s art.
“It's rewarding in its own way. Being able to create something that people enjoy is pretty cool,” he said.
What started as cartoon doodles in the fourth grade developed into much more. From abstract paintings to intricate sketches – he even creates custom sneakers for himself and his teammates. Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis was the first to call his number.
“He said ‘hey man when you got the time, can you draw all of (Air) Jordan sneakers for me, because I want to be able to hang them up in my home,’” McClain said.
McClain has customized 32 sneakers to date.
“I have a long way to go. It took more four years to get seven,” McClain said. “I’m going to make sure to finish it before we all pass away.”
Pieces like this have taught him patience – in more ways than just his artwork.
“You come in plans with an abstract piece, it doesn’t end the way you want it to end. It's kind of like that with football. You come in with a game plan and it’s not always going to go smooth. You have to be able to adjust,” he said.
It's an uncommon parallel between art and athletics. As every masterpiece begins as a blank canvas.
“There are times I’ll see perfections in my art and there’s times I won’t see… I try to be as perfect as I can out there. Knowing I’m going to make mistakes with my art, I have to know how to be able to take criticism and go from there,” McClain said.
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