Mike McGlinchey's quantum leap: OT's evolution shows Irish how much they'll miss him

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

INDIANAPOLIS — Mike McGlinchey’s most sparkling number from an NFL Combine performance, abridged by a testy hamstring, turned out to be his 28½-inch vertical leap, of all things.

That ranked 14th-best among the 38 offensive linemen who attempted that physical test on Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. It will likely be long forgotten/deemed irrelevant by the time the actual NFL Draft rolls around, April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas.

“Not many scouts are really worried about Mike McGlinchey’s 40 time,” offered the former Notre Dame All-America left offensive tackle, who wasn’t actually able to tackle the 40 Friday after warming up for it.

“They’re worried about what kind of guy that I am, what I can do for their room, the kind of things I put on film, the way I play the game of football and just my knowledge of the game as well.

“And that’s what I’m trying to show here. That’s why I’m trying to build relationships with all these coaches and show them really who I really am, what I’m really about and what I’m going to do for them in the future.”

Unwittingly, the Philadelphia product is also showing why and how much the 2018 Notre Dame football team is going is miss him when they kick off spring practice on Tuesday.

Because of how he leads. Because of how he plays the game.

Because of how far he had to come to be surrounded by cameras and mikes this past week, making his case to be ND’s third straight starting left tackle to evolve into a first-round draft choice, following Zack Martin and Ronnie Stanley.

“Well, I was only like 260 pounds at Signing Day (coming out of Penn Charter School), and now I’m standing at like 315,” he said. “A lot physically has changed about me. I knew I was going to play offensive tackle, but I wasn’t physically prepared to do it.

“It took a long time. I made more mistakes than I can even count, and that’s the reason I’m here today — because of the way I was pushed.”

Including from himself.

Perhaps not every player’s development model is quite as layered as McGlinchey’s, but maybe it should be.

It started with Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Matt Ryan, McGlinchey’s first cousin.

“Whether Matt knew he was doing it or not, he’s been forming me to be the kind or person and athlete and teammate and leader than I am, probably since I was in third grade,” McGlinchey said.

“I saw him graduate from Penn Charter, then followed him to the same high school. I almost went to Boston College. Thank God I didn’t.”

A few years after Ryan was drafted in the first round by the Falcons, Ryan joined the families of both players at their usual retreat on the Jersey Shore. Because Ryan is perpetually working to get better, he proposed that he and McGlinchey — a junior tight end primarily for Penn Charter at the time — go find a park and throw the football around.

“I was running routes for him and he was throwing the ball over my head,” McGlinchey recalled. “I was like, ‘What are you doing?’

“And he said, ‘That’s where Julio (Jones) goes up and gets it.’

“I said, ‘All right, but I’m not that guy.’ ”

Actually, who McGlinchey was at the time was a guy who, beyond his tight end duties, dabbled at every position but defensive back on a team that fielded 30 varsity players his senior year.

But it left him ill-prepared two years later for Notre Dame’s offensive line coach at the time, Harry Hiestand, and his unbending high standards.

“He’s never going to let up on the demands that he has for you until you start seeing what he sees in you,” McGlinchey said. “I was a little weaker than most people. I came in lighter. Never really played true offensive line before.

“And it wasn’t until I decided that I really wanted to be a Notre Dame offensive lineman under Harry that I started working an hour or two extra every day — whether it be lifting, sets, extra drill work, more film, whatever it was that could give me an upper hand to get into that lineup.

“Once I began to see that I was capable of doing that, the harder I started to work.”

And Zack Martin provided the template. He was ND’s starter at left tackle, a fifth-year player, when McGlinchey spent his freshman year redshirting in 2013.

“Whether he knew it or not, he was helping me from the moment I stepped on campus until I was a fifth-year senior,” McGlinchey said of the now perennial Pro Bowl selection at guard for the Dallas Cowboys.

“Anytime I needed to look at things technique-wise, scheme-wise, I turned on the 2013 film when 70 was our left tackle. He did everything the right way, acted the right way, led the right way. Just a total football dude.

“And everything about him is what I’ve tried to emulate. He set the standard and example at Notre Dame for what it meant to be an offensive lineman. And I just tried to uphold that the rest of my career.”

Also helping to shape McGlinchey was Irish All-America left offensive guard Quenton Nelson, one of five Irish players who attended the 2018 combine and the one of the five overwhelmingly most likely to come off the board first.

“You’re probably not going to get a better teammate,” McGlinchey said. “He’s a phenomenal player, a phenomenal person, cares as much as anybody in the building, works as hard as anybody in the building.

“And when he gets into the meeting room, when he steps across those white lines, he’s a different animal.”

Count both Nelson and McGlinchey among those who were surprised that Hiestand left Notre Dame in January to accept the offensive line coaching job with the Chicago Bears. Head coach Brian Kelly promoted senior offensive analyst Jeff Quinn to fill the vacancy.

And it’s a lofty proposition.

Not only did Hiestand help guide the 2017 Irish offensive line to a Joe Moore Award, as the best in college football, he simultaneously impacted their NFL futures as well.

NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock noted to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that only 33 offensive linemen got picked in the entire 2017 draft, the lowest total going back to at least 1967.

“I think a lot of that is the effects of the spread offenses in college football,” Mayock told King. “There is more security with offensive linemen that are coming out of pro-style offenses.

“What does that mean for this draft? It means the two Notre Dame kids are solid gold, Quenton Nelson and (tackle) Mike McGlinchey. … because they stuck their hand in the dirt, they had to move people in the run game and they understand a little bit of pass protection.”

And Hiestand probably had a hand in every bit of it, save the 28½-inch vertical leap.

“It’s been a complete transformation from when I was a 16-year-old kid getting recruited by him to now being 23 and finishing my five years playing for him,” McGlinchey said.

“I have all the respect in the world for coach Hiestand. I wish him nothing but the best for the Bears. And if our paths crossed down the road, that’d be pretty sweet too.”

St. Brown shines

Former Notre Dame wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown deferred most of his physical testing until Notre Dame’s Pro Day on March 22.

But what he did get done at the NFL Combine was pretty impressive.

On Friday, the 6-foot-5, 214-pound early entry recorded 20 reps at 225 on the bench press, fourth-best among wide receiver prospects. On Saturday, his 4.48-second clocking in the 40-yard dash was 12th-best among the 37 receivers who took part in it.

Tight end Durham Smythe also ran the 40 Saturday, with a 4.81 clocking that was at the slower end of the spectrum of his position group. But his 20-yard shuttle (4.23 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.86) were among the best times posted for tight ends.

Former Notre Dame safety Max Redfield’s media session is scheduled for Sunday along with the start of his physical testing.

After getting dismissed from the team by head coach Brian Kelly prior to the start of the 2016 season, Redfield finished up as a Division II All-American at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Notre Dame offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey gets measured for his vertical leap Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/MICHAEL CONROY)