Bruising LT Mike McGlinchey available if Notre Dame runs out of quarterbacks

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Mike McGlinchey should have been a quarterback.

And once, just for a moment, he was.

Before he plowed through overmatched defensive linemen at Notre Dame, before he threw that fateful pass as time expired at Penn Charter, McGlinchey played a Catholic Youth Organization football game on the field at the University of Villanova.

“It was freezing cold, and I went to watch this big kid who was cousins with (Atlanta Falcons quarterback) Matt Ryan play defensive end,” recalled Jeff Humble, who coached McGlinchey for four years at the Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. “I thought, ‘I have to get him.’ We coordinated with the basketball coach here. We had a family connection to get him here.

“You knew there was something different about him the first time that you saw him.”

Of course, there was the obvious. McGlinchey was, in fact, a 6-foot-5 eighth grader, looming ominously above the competition in both height and substance. Once he arrived at Penn Charter, McGlinchey did everything. On defense, he rotated between defensive tackle and defensive end. On the other side, he dominated the offensive line. When the situation warranted it, he played fullback. On the goal line, he wore an eligible number and caught passes as a tight end.

He threw it. Far. Once.

“Mike had the strongest arm on the team,” Humble said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen him throw the ball, but the kid can throw the ball 65 yards in the air. Tight spiral. Michael had a fantastic release.”

Confirmed McGlinchey: “I grew up in a family where we had seven or eight guys go to Division I colleges, and all of them played quarterback except me. So when I would go work out with them, I learned how to throw a football just by observing them.”

As fate would have it, one game in his senior season, Penn Charter trailed Malvern by seven points with only a few seconds remaining and 65 yards to cross.

Only one guy could make the distance.

“One of our receivers was Daryl Worley, who was a third round pick to the Carolina Panthers this past year,” McGlinchey said. “Coach told me to go in there and throw it as far as I could to Daryl, so that’s what I did.”

Penn Charter’s 6-8, 275-pound quarterback took the snap and heaved it, the football rising before descending like an asteroid falling to Earth.

Football games rarely play out like fairy tales, though.

“He didn’t complete it,” Humble said, “but it’s a funny story to tell.”

It’s also a useful one, a reminder that Notre Dame’s 6-8, 310-pound senior left tackle is, above all else, an athlete.

One of four team captains in 2016, McGlinchey is a leader, too.

“It’s hard to quantify all those little intangibles that he has inside of him that you can’t really measure, that you can’t see,” Humble said. “But he’s got them.”

Come Sunday, McGlinchey — he of the breathtaking measurables and unquantifiable immeasurables — will be tasked with leading Notre Dame’s rebuilt offensive line on the road at Texas. The Irish will unveil three new starters up front — center Sam Mustipher, right guard Colin McGovern and right tackle Alex Bars.

When the lights turn on in Austin, Texas, they better be ready to block.

“No matter what happens, we're running the football,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said this week.

More often than not, they’ll run it to the left side, where McGlinchey flipped from right tackle a season ago and left guard Quenton Nelson cracks defensive linemen like eggs in a Longhorn omelet. A season ago, Notre Dame finished 27th nationally in rushing (averaging 207.9 rushing yards per game), while Texas allowed 219.2 rushing yards per game (112th nationwide).

On Sunday night, McGlinchey will receive a primetime opportunity to expose that match up.

“It’s why you play college football. It’s why you come to Notre Dame,” McGlinchey said. “You’re going down to the University of Texas, of all places, to play your first game under the lights in front of 100-and-whatever-thousand fans.

“There’s nothing like that. There’s no drug or drink I can take that gives me that kind of feeling.”

There’s also no drug McGlinchey can take — no Polyjuice Potion, for the Harry Potter fans — that can transform McGlinchey into dominant departed left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

McGlinchey, though, should consistently dominate all the same.

“The two of us are very different athletes,” McGlinchey said of Stanley, who was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens in last spring’s NFL Draft. “Obviously I would ask him how he did certain things technique-wise, but either way, you have to figure it out on your own how to do it.

“Ronnie definitely helped me a lot with the mental side of the game — dealing with some looks that I wasn’t comfortable with. He would always take the time to talk to me about all that stuff and I would do the same for him if he had some issues. I don’t look at it as trying to fill his shoes. I’m Mike McGlinchey. I’m going to try to be the best Mike McGlinchey I can be.”

The best Mike McGlinchey might just be an All-American and future first round pick.

And maybe, in another life, he might have been a heck of a quarterback.


Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise (20) is hoisted into the air by teammate Mike McGlinchey (68) as they celebrate a touchdown during the Notre Dame-Navy football game on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN