When Notre Dame right tackle Mike McGlinchey joins his teammates on Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia Saturday night to take on the undefeated Temple Owls, a band of hometown folks will be on hand to cheer one of their own.
One of them won’t be Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback and McGlinchey’s first cousin. But there will be more than a few Ryans and McGlincheys among those turning out for the 6-foot-7 ½, 310-pounder, who quickly has become a mainstay on the right side of the Irish offensive line.
“I’m really excited about it,” said McGlinchey, who has started the last eight games for the Irish, including the Music City Bowl last December when he was called upon to make his collegiate starting debut.
“Philly has always been my home. It’s a fun place. I love it there. I’m excited to have all my family watching and cheering us on. I don’t know how many (family and friends) will be there. A lot. I know it’s north of 100 and close to 200.”
Count Brian Kelly among McGlinchey’s fan base. The Philadelphia William Penn Charter School product is a player on a rapid upward arc.
“We knew Mike and how hard a worker he was and what we were getting with the workmanlike attitude that he has every day,” Kelly said. “(Offensive line coach) Harry (Hiestand) has done a great job of developing him.
“His athleticism, his toughness, all those things…His IQ, how he carries himself…He’s going to be a great pro. I don’t think there’s much doubt that he’s going to be playing at another level.”
McGlinchey is the first to say that he’s a long way from being the player he needs and wants to be. It’s just his nature. Every superlative thrown his way is accompanied by his own declaration that there remains much to learn and that he’s eager to take every stop of the process.
It’s that attitude that makes good offensive line prospects great, and great offensive line prospects NFL players. It’s that attitude that keeps offensive linemen grounded, focused on the task, and patient to take every step one at a time.
“I think I’m improving every week,” McGlinchey said. “I have a lot to work on and that will never stop. That’s the beauty about playing this game and this position.
“I appreciate all the praise, and (Kelly) thinking that highly of me and trusting me to do what I can do here means a lot. He also said I’ve still got a lot of game to be played, and that’s what I focus on. You have to stay level-headed and keep moving forward.”
Even if he weren’t so inclined, the demanding Hiestand would knock McGlinchey down a peg.
“It’s a little different,” laughs McGlinchey of the feedback offered by Hiestand compared to Kelly.
The feedback from the Notre Dame defensive players that have to go against McGlinchey in practice leans strongly toward Kelly’s praise.
“He’s one of the hardest hitting players on the team,” said linebacker Joe Schmidt. “He’s in the top 5, for sure. You’ve got to be ready for his physicality.
“The fun part about Mike is he’s always running hard and he’s always trying hard, so he’s always going to give his best effort. You love that about him. He’s a good guy to have on the team. He’s a great tackle.”
“McGlinchey definitely has special traits as far as agility and quickness,” said defensive end Isaac Rochell. “His reach blocks are elite. He’s hard to get around in pass pro, too.”
“He’s a great competitor,” added outside linebacker James Onwualu. “Long arms…great player. He’s really been working at his game. All props to him. He can only get better.”
Part of what makes McGlinchey such a tremendous offensive tackle prospect – in addition to having two more years of college eligibility to hone his skills – is his inquisitive nature, which has developed his love for the game and the mysteries that abound within offensive line play.
Ultimately, the NFL awaits McGlinchey. He knows that. But he relishes the journey. He’s not looking for shortcuts or abbreviated routes to the top of his game. He savors the process.
“Where I came from, we were a small school, a small program,” said McGlinchey of William Penn, which will host the Irish Saturday morning in a walk-through. “You just kind of went out and played.
“I had to become a student of the game here, and that’s something that I really enjoy doing. That’s something I’ve really had to overcome and work on. The more experience I get and the more I learn, the easier it seems to become.”
So what have the Irish defenders learned about dealing with McGlinchey? It’s a tall task.
“Hit him before he sees you,” Onwualu said. “You’ve got to go in there and strike.”
“You have to get your hands under his chin because he’s naturally going to be high as a 6-8 guy,” Rochell said. “He’s one of those guys that if he gets leverage on you, he’s going to get you. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Schmidt takes a more existential approach.
“Are you familiar with ying and yang?” Schmidt said. “ If he’s yinging, I’m yanging; and if he’s yanging, I’m yinging…Or become dust and be very nimble.”
For Kelly, there’s no secret to McGlinchey’s path to success. Stay the course, keep working, keep learning, and the rewards will come.
“He’s still scratching the surface,” Kelly said. “He just needs to work at the game. He came in with very little knowledge of an offensive lineman, even vocabulary. The words of an offensive lineman didn’t resonate with him.
“It’s really developmental for him. Every day, he sees things that he has not seen before, and he’s made great progress. But I definitely see him playing this game for a long time.”