McCloud took unofficial visits to Florida, Auburn and Alabama last summer.
"I was gone a long time on the trips," McCloud said. "I realized then that I wanted to be close to home and stay closer to my girlfriend. That trip let me find out what I wanted to do and that staying close to home would be better for me."
6,812 all-purpose yards and 5,341 yards rushing
McCloud is the most prolific runner in the history of Mercer football. He finished his career with 6,812 all-purpose yards and 5,341 yards rushing. He scored 65 career touchdowns.
This season he ran for 2,150 yards, second most in the area, and returned eight kickoffs for 332 yards. During his career he returned 35 kickoffs for 1,161 yards. He set a single-game rushing record in 2003 with 350 yards against Fleming County and leaves Mercer with seven of the top 10 individual rushing games.
McCloud recently was named the Kentucky News Network Class AA Player of the Year in voting by the state's high school coaches.
He also had scholarship offers from Furman, James Madison, Wofford and Eastern Kentucky. Eastern Michigan and Samford had been contacting him. McCloud also had considered going to Georgetown College, an annual NAIA power.
Kentucky offered him a chance to be a preferred walk-on.
McCloud's father, Greg McCloud, said scholarship offers started coming soon after former Mercer head coach and Kentucky offensive coordinator Tony Franklin started helping with the recruitment process.
"Tony offered to help get coaches to watch his film and contacted some schools and got them to look at him. A lot of schools hadn't really seen film, and Tony told us he had contacts and could get people to at least look at film, and he did. That's what got it rolling now instead of waiting several more months," Greg McCloud said.
Centre combine helped
McCloud said it probably also helped him that Elson saw him in person at a combine held at Centre College last spring.
"A lot of players say they can run this time or that time, but he got to see me run. I proved to him then what I could do," McCloud said. "At least that got them initially interested."
He says he was told he would have a chance to compete for playing time at tailback next season even though Western returns two veteran running backs.
"They said everybody comes into camp and gets a chance to compete," McCloud said. "They never promise anybody a starting spot. If I earn playing time, I'll get it. If they feel a redshirt year would be best, that's what I'll do. They recruited me as a tailback, but they also said they feel I am a football player and if it doesn't work out at tailback they could see me as a slot receiver or defensive back."
McCloud hopes he'll also get a chance to return kicks. That's one reason he again plans to run track to continue to work on his speed and stamina.
"The better shape I am in when I report there, the better chance I'll have to get on the field," McCloud said.
He'll have several former local players as teammates at Western. Boyle County quarterback Brandon Smith verbally committed to the Hilltoppers last week. Brandon Smith, a former Lincoln County player, has started at linebacker the last two years at Western and Brad Cloud, a former Boyle player, was redshirted last year.
"I am just excited to have my decision behind me. Now I don't have to worry about where I am going. I can get on with my senior year and start thinking about what it will be like at Western next year," McCloud said.