MOBILE, Ala. — Former Georgia offensive lineman Warren McClendon is publicly expressing his grief while returning to the field for the first time since he survived a deadly crash that killed his teammate and a University of Georgia football recruiting staff member.
Willock was killed with recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy more than two weeks ago in an overnight crash in Athens following the Georgia Bulldogs' national championship parade. McClendon was also hurt in the crash along with staffer Tori Bowles.
"It was just a no-brainer," he said about the jersey number during an interview with 11Alive's UGA insiders at UGASports.com.
"For my brother, my roommate -- I had to do it," he said.
The four were in a 2021 Ford Expedition on Jan. 15 when the vehicle hit a curb, left the roadway, and hit a power pole just hours after the team celebrated its second straight national championship. LeCroy was driving the vehicle, which was leased by the University of Georgia's Athletic Association. UGA officials have since acknowledged that the vehicle should not have been in use during the time of the crash.
McClendon said they were headed to Waffle House but doesn't remember much from the crash since he was "knocked out."
He does however remember how LeCroy and Willock lit up his world.
"They were both hard workers," he said, adding, with a smile, that they were goofy too. "They wanted to make you laugh."
McClendon also described the duo as two people who could light up a room.
"They always made me laugh," he said.
Since the crash, he said physical therapy has been going well. He said he has also been seeing a therapist.
"At first I was really trying to push away from it," he said about the extra help. Now, he believes it's helping him get back to a sense of normalcy. In one way, that means football.
"It was tough," he said about deciding to play in Saturday's game. "I know Devin. If he was still here he would want me to come out here and give it my all."
He plans to play the best he can, especially while wearing Willock's number. Though he's still working through grief, he knows pursuing his passion and keeping Willock and LeCroy's memories alive is a way to process their loss.
"It's been tough at points," he said. "(I'm) just taking it day by day and trying to get through it."