WORCESTER — The Massachusetts Pirates started their second season with four losses in their first five games before signing former NFL All-Pro Dexter McCluster in mid-May.
They’ve gone undefeated since, ripping off four wins to improve to 5-4 and climb from last to third place in the six-team National Arena League.
So, chalk up the turnaround to the convergence or consider it a coincidence?
“I’ve been here for four weeks, played in four games,” a poised and polished McCluster said Tuesday. “We’ve been on a winning streak, and I can’t say if it’s me that’s a lucky charm, but I’m glad the team is getting everything rolling right now.”
So the 5-foot-8, 168-pound McCluster has gotten off to a solid start, especially for a player who didn’t have the benefit of training camp to transition to the smaller field and unforgiving wall that shrink time and space in the indoor game.
Now, coach Anthony Payton is looking to utilize McCluster more often in hopes of upping that production.
“Everything he has done for me is top notch,” Payton said. “He never complains about anything, he never says anything that he might be unhappy with. So with all those attributes I’m going to do my best to get him the ball more to make him more dynamic on the football field.”
Unquestionably, the biggest impact McCluster has made is with his professional attitude and approach on a daily basis. The 30-year-old Florida native and Nashville resident is a “first player” — as in first in the locker room, first on the practice field, first to get treatment in the training room.
So he’s complemented the way highly respected veterans like quarterback Sean Brackett, offensive lineman Thomas Claiborne and receiver Mardy Gilyard — who leads the league with 23 TDs — go about their business and helped create a culture of success for a roster with an abundance of rookies.
“A lot of people who don’t know me might think, ‘Oh, he’s had all these accolades. He may come in like he’s Mr. Big Shot,’ ” McCluster said. “I’ve always prided myself on just being myself at all times and doing the extra things that people don’t want to do every single day.
“So I think with that, with me working out every day and doing that extra, I think it’s becoming contagious, especially with the young guys. I mean, I’m just trying to do the best I can to be me.”
McCluster was drafted in the second round (36th overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010 after being named a third-team All-American at the University of Mississippi as a senior. He went on to play four seasons with KC, two with the Tennessee Titans and one with the San Diego Chargers.
After a year out of football, McCluster played four games with Toronto in the CFL last season before being released May 6. He signed with the Pirates eight days later, glad to be back in the game.
“It feels at home every time I’m on the football field,” said McCluster, whose wife and their four girls are due to arrive here shortly now that after-school activities have ended. “Who knows how much longer I’ll be playing, so right now, I’m going to enjoy every moment.”
And whether it’s been good luck, a great presence or his sound play, the Pirates have — coincidentally or not — been on a roll since McCluster signed on.
—Contact Rich Garven at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RichGarvenTG.