Born as Leon McClennon to John and Dorothy McClennon, he was nicknamed "Rusty" by his aunt Alma and uncle Sapp as an infant. He was the second of three children. In 1984, McClennon started training stunt work with Greg Wayne Elam and Joey Banks. Got into the movie industry through his sister Vinita, who is a stunt woman. Got one of his first jobs on Airwolf, where Ernest Borgnine made it that Rusty got his SAG card.