Jeffrey McClure improvises on the field and off

Pat Hickey

Since arriving on campus four years ago, senior midfielder Jeffrey McClure has provided the Eagles with a rare combination of extraordinary athleticism and absolute selflessness.

Those were the two attributes that stood out to USI men’s soccer head coach Mat Santoro as he recruited McClure out of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis. It was Santoro’s first year as head coach, but he found initial and lasting success with McClure, who has won back-to-back Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) player of the week honors this season.

McClure leads the Eagles (8-4, 7-3) with 22 points on nine goals – three game-winners – and four assists.

“His athleticism was obviously very enticing, but what made him special, and still makes him special along with his athleticism, is his character,” Santoro said. “We knew he could be a weapon for us, and his coaches raved about how coachable and how great of a teammate he was, and that’s a priority for us.”

After leading the team in scoring as a freshman, McClure was asked to fill a team need by dropping back and playing as a defender the following year. Santoro knew it was a tough thing to ask of his leading striker, but said McClure’s team-oriented mentality made the transition seamlessly.

“Honestly, I didn’t mind at all,” McClure said. “It was intriguing to me because, by playing different positions, you get to see the game from more angles, and I knew it would definitely make me a better all-around player.

“In soccer, you have to prepare for so many different situations and that experience was great for me.”

That experience has made McClure a playmaker and one of the most versatile players in the GLVC.

During the team’s five-game winning streak this season, McClure had five goals – four of which came on Sept. 30 in a 5-1 win against conference foe Indianapolis – to go along with four assists. He called the four-game haul “special,” especially since it was in front of his family and friends.

A new challenge arose as McClure was asked to start the game on the bench for the first time in his career. He had previously started 55 consecutive games, but Santoro said the team captain didn’t get discouraged or think of it as a demotion.

“A lot of times, players will say, ‘Anything to help the team win,’ but they don’t truly mean it,” Santoro said. “Some guys just don’t have the personality for it. But Jeffrey does, and I know whatever I ask of him, he’ll do it and perform well.”

Part of the reason McClure has been able to shine under different lights is his patience and creativity as an art major. Abstract thinking is essential in both of his passions.

“In soccer, you have to improvise a lot and react quickly to what’s happening,” McClure said. “It’s sort of the same way when I’m drawing. You just go with your gut and don’t overthink it.”