After helping Howard Payne University earn its first home win since 2015 with his four-touchdown performance, quarterback Gage McClanahan walked the HPU campus a little easier Monday morning.
The victory was a milestone moment for McClanahan’s college career, which began three years ago in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and McClanahan has been looking for an opportunity to prove himself ever since.
“It’s why I came here. I want to get back to playing more and being more appreciated,” said McClanahan, who comes to HPU as a transfer following three seasons in Sioux Falls with Augustana University. “I’m a hungry person. I don’t want to just sit on a bench and be a part of the team. I came here to compete and help turn this team around with Coach (Braxton) Harris and all of them. This is everything I could ask for.”
McClanahan said if had he do it over, he would have originally committed to a small school like HPU. He attended First Baptist Academy in Dallas in the hopes of attracting attention from college scouts, but he did not start until his senior year and the best offer he received came from Augustana University, where red-shirted his freshman year and saw some playing time his sophomore year, but feels he never had an opportunity to prove himself.
“They gave me a good scholarship and it was a good program. I thought it would be the right fit. It just felt right at the time,” McClanahan said. “It was a bigger school and, as a high school kid, I wanted to go to the biggest school I could. Looking back at it if I could have come to Howard Payne or a smaller school, then I definitely would have done that. I’m glad I am where I am now and blessed to be here.”
Despite coming off a 1-9 season and a coach entering his second season, McClanahan saw an opportunity in coming to HPU. He estimated only 50 players participated in the spring workouts, but through the adversity of last season, learning a new offensive system and each player having a chip on his shoulder, they developed a bond. Following a 35-3, season-opening loss to George Fox University, it seemed like the new HPU football team was simply another iteration of the old HPU team. McClanahan knew better.
“Nobody wanted what happened last Saturday to happen this Saturday,” said McClanahan, who completed 16-34 passes for 262 yards and four touchdowns. “Everybody knew their mistakes from last week and fixed them. The O-line did great and I didn’t get touched as much. The wide receivers were winning a lot this week. For a lot of those guys it was their first college action in a while. Coming into week two, they were more comfortable”
Including this season, McClanahan has two years of eligibility left. He currently studies businesses administration and hopes to work on the commercial end of sports once his playing days are done. Until then, he hopes to keep the momentum going and play his part in developing HPU into an elite program.
“It’s been so much fun. I came here with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder and wanted to prove all of the naysayers wrong,” McClanahan said. “This is also the perfect opportunity to do that for the school as well. A lot of people say we can’t win at Howard Payne. I want to prove all of those guys wrong and say ‘we can win.’ We proved that last week. It was just one win, but if we can get the ball rolling we can keep piling up win after win. That’s something I’m looking forward to — to prove myself and to prove ourselves as a team.”
Editor’s Note: Wednesdays throughout the school year, the Brownwood Bulletin will profile a Howard Payne student-athlete who goes above and beyond in their respective sports, in the classroom and in the community.