by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
It’s one thing to talk about working hard. It’s another thing to do it and to make sure your teammates do it, too.
Mike McLaughlin helped lead Boston College to yet another bowl season, keeping the defense steady from his spot at middle linebacker (aka “Mike” – go figure). His on-field production and off-field work should get him a close look from the NFL this spring.
McLaughlin took a few minutes to discuss the Eagles and exactly what this “hard work” thing is all about.
Let’s open up talking about BC football!
Now, you guys had a late coaching switch, you lost (linebacker) Mark Herzlich for the year and lost you for the first few games. And yet you come back, and just like every year, you end up in a bowl game. What is the secret to Boston College’s consistency?
Yeah, that’s funny, because I was kind of like – that’s been the main question I’ve been asked for the past year or two, just how we plug in the pieces and everything. But I think this year we came together a little bit, made it a point that it’s something that nobody would really understand except us. We would say that in the locker room before the game – you know, whether it was a game against Clemson, or one of the bigger teams, any team we’d face – nobody knows how hard we work except the guys in this room. I think that starts with simple stuff, like being at school all year ’round. We don’t go home like most (schools). A lot of schools get their break after graduation, they get a month off where all the guys get to unwind and go home. But we take it upon ourselves as players, and being a captain for the last two years – and it wasn’t just myself, a lot of other guys did a great job doing it – we were all there, basically every day, working on seven-on-seven drills, getting in the film room. Pass groups, you know, linebackers, DBs, whatever it may be. And I just think that consistent work throughout the year is kind of what separates us from the rest of the pack, so to speak.
So, talking about staying there, is that something that the captains all agree upon, is it something the coaches all try to get you to do? How does that work out?
It’s kind of a mutual thing… You’ve got to give credit to our head strength and conditioning coach, Coach (Jason) Loscalzo, because he came here, and that was a different thing when he came three years ago with the original coaching change. Usually our guys, like everybody else, would go home for a month, a month and a half. You know, I think it was between him and a couple of older guys on the team, myself and two other guys, that just thought it would be best if most of us stuck around and started the summer program a month early. And we were able to get those extra days, the seven-on-seven like I said, and film room, and compile all of it in four or five weeks that normally guys would just be hanging out at home.
Did you notice a difference right away?
I think so. I really did. I don’t know if I should say this, it’s like a cliché, but you could just tell. It breeds a different attitude when you’re working out, when you graduate May 19 and your first summer session is May 20, the day after graduation. I think it puts a different mindset in everybody’s head. You make it fun, but it’s also, “Well, hey, let’s get to work. Let’s start this now, not go home and think about doing it, let’s actually do it. Let’s start this up.”
In terms of working out, what kind of improvements have you seen with yourself over the last couple of years?
Oh, I mean, I’ve made tremendous strides. To be honest, you know, I kind of felt like my ’08 season was when I put myself on the map a little bit, and I owe a lot of it to our strength coach. And also my hard work and the guys around me, too, just pushing each other like I said. I just think that my running, my quickness and my speed got so much better through being at school. And really, just working on conditioning, working out in a group. When you’re around your teammates, the competitiveness just goes up through the roof, whereas if you’re working out by yourself you really cant’ get that. It became like an everyday battle almost, whether it be linebackers seeing if you can beat each other in drills. When you’re doing that, you’re pushing yourself to the max every day, which you’re not going to do by yourself.
So are you working out now by yourself for the combine, for pro day, or do you have other people you’re working out with?
No, I’m working out down in Florida, down in a place called Athletic Edge. Similar situation, great guys. Mike Gough is the one who runs it. There’s about 13 of us. Very similar mentality, just kind of blue collar. You go and work every day. It’s not like stretching, warm up and people telling you how good you are. You have to go and you’re competing every day, and that really is a great atmosphere.
Are you going up against any guys you’ve seen before?
There’s a D-tackle from Maryland that obviously I’ve played against for the last four or five years. I don’t really know him, but it is kind of cool to be working out with him. A couple of tackles from Rutgers… Nobody I really have known (well) through playing is down there, but there’s some real good talent.
Schematically, what do you think you did at Boston College that can help you in the coming years?
Well, the position I played was the Mike linebacker position, in our scheme anyway, in our defense. He’s basically the quarterback to a defense, which I’m sure is pretty common among all teams, as far as making checks and setting the defense every play, and making sure everybody knows what they’re doing. With that being said, knowing what everybody else on defense is doing, not just myself. I think that helped me out as a football player. I think it will help me out here in the next few months, just to show coaches what I know about the game of football.
Do you think the hardest part of your position is mental or physical?
That’s a good question, actually. At BC, I had the hardest time mentally, to be honest with you. We’re in, like I said, the Mike linebacker position because it’s so – it’s very detailed, and if you’re not right, then the whole defense isn’t right. So you really can’t play until you know exactly what you’re doing and, like I said, what everybody else is doing, in and out, like it’s the back of your hand. Mentally, it took me a couple of years. My position coach was, to me, the best coach I could possibly have for that, Coach (Bill) McGovern. It doesn’t get any better than him, I don’t think. I was lucky enough to have a guy like that who was patient with me but also knew when to kind of kick me in the butt and say, “You need to pick it up; you need to learn your stuff.”
Who were the toughest teams you went against in terms of execution and game-planning? Not just athletically, but the ones who seemed to know what to expect from you?
I’d definitely have to say, we played Virginia Tech, and they’ve been so tough through the past three or four years. In the ’07, ’08 seasons we played them a combined four times. Then we played them last year, of course. They have tremendous athletes, but at the same time they combine that with some schemes that just will drive you crazy. Like in the ’08 ACC Championship game, they kind of had our defense down pat. They knew exactly what our checks were going to be, to simple stuff like trading the tight end, motioning, just getting us out of our comfort (zone), what we were used to doing. They knew exactly what they were doing, and it kind of got us off-balance, and obviously it ended up working out for them. (Note: Tech won, 30-12.)
Do you think that’s the type of thing that can help you in the future?
Well, knowing that helps a little bit, but it’s kind of tough, because I knew what they were doing the whole time. And as a coach, you knew what Virginia Tech was doing to you, but like I said, they’re getting you off your game, and if all 11 guys don’t know exactly what’s going on, it’s going to be hard to stop. I think learning that and just knowing how teams are attacking you is huge, especially for preparation of the games. So I think that will definitely help, especially the linebacker position where you have to know your enemy.
Now, being a Massachusetts guy, do you watch the Patriots much?
Oh, yeah, of course. I mean, I grew up a die-hard Patriots fan. That would be like a dream come true to play – it would be a dream to play in the NFL, never mind getting a chance to play for the Patriots.
Have you talked to any NFL scouts?
Yeah, I played at the East West Shrine Game so there were a ton of scouts there. I talked to a good amount of them, but I don’t think I’ve spoken with the Patriots.
What teams have you spoken with?
Oh, I don’t know. I mean: Chiefs, Steelers, Jets, Panthers. I don’t even remember them (all), to be honest with you. Those are just a handful.
Sounds like a lot. In terms of your testing, what kind of numbers are you looking at right now, and what do you hope to do?
Well, obviously the 40 is the big one. I’d like to run in the 4.7s for that. I’ve never been an unbelievable straight-line guy, but I think my strength is going to be my quickness. I think scouts and teams underestimate my athletic ability a little bit, so hopefully doing the position drills at the combine, I’ll show them that I’m a pretty good athlete and I’m a try-hard guy, that I actually have some talent. But as far as numbers, like I said, in the low 4.7s would be ideal. The other stuff, I’m not really sure what I’m going to put up, but hopefully it will be at the top numbers for the inside backers.
That sounds good. Mike, thanks a lot for talking to us today.
Yeah, I appreciate it.
All right. Good luck.
All right. Thanks a lot.
Email Chris Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org
Excellent interview Chris, well done. I love how McLaughlin’s mindset came through in this piece, he and Carter have been fun reads the way you capture their drive in print.
May I suggest Koa Misi (Utah) if you can work him in? He’s played all over in 40 & 30 fronts at Utah and I’d love to see how he comes across in a chat.
A pair of WRs I’d also be interested in hearing from are Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson (Central Michigan). Did they do much with option routes and reading the defense in-sync with their QB?
Good job Chris. McLaughlin is known as a try-hard guy but obviously there is athletic talent there just to be invited to the combine. His speed, athletic ability and his height are probably questions NFL teams will have. But he made a lot of plays starting in, like he said, ’08 and really came out of nowhere so that he was a must-watch guy right there with Herzlich, Raji and Brace in ’08. His injury set him back a bit, but he’ll probably be a late round draft pick somewhere.
This is what’s wrong with Boston College. On May 18 they have graduation, and on May 19 they start workouts.
That is called ILLEGAL. The coaches are not supposed to run practices with the players in the offseason. You can’t go work out if Notre Dame, Florida State and Rutgers don’t get to work out also. Obviously these kids are going on weekend trips, which means more transportation costs–how on Earth are they affording THAT??? Where is the NCAA to investigate this rather than going after programs like USC that only practice when they’re supposed to?
This is why Boston College always gets such a mediocre recruiting class. Four-star recruits want to be four-star recruits. They want the respect that is accorded everywhere else to their pedigree. They don’t want to be stuck in a classroom or a weight room when they could be telling people in Seaside Heights or Dewey Beach what it was like to go on recruiting visits, or to meet Todd McShay or Erin Andrews.
If you make such a big thing about offseason workouts, then what happens if you’re battling to get the top RB recruit in the country, and you need to promise him the first carry of the season? You can’t do that if you’ve made such a big thing about offseason commitment. So then you lose that kid to Clemson, and you’re stuck taking the #2 RB on the kid’s high school team. And then you wonder why you can’t reel in a Top-10 recruiting class.
So, get a clue. Don’t cheat by working out the whole summer. And give the kids some fun so other 5 and 4-star recruits will want to come. Otherwise everyone knows that the only reason you “win” games is because you “work harder”, and we all know nobody takes you seriously when the only reason you win is some sort of “effort”.
OC, you make a great point. If teams like BC work out all the time, where will the “cupcake games” go? Who will the elite teams play at the beginning of each season if there’s a danger of having a competitive contest? Is it really college football without a 63-0 blowout in September?
I hadn’t considered this aspect of McLaughlin’s “work ethic.” Glad you brought it up.
Exactly. Think of all the money that has been lost due to BC’s insolence. I particularly remember two years ago when BC had held hostage the #2 ranking in the football polls in 2007. How awful it would have been for ratings and for tickets being sold if things had moved forward from there. Can you imagine trying to sell as the BCS Championship a match between LSU and a team typically ranked between #40 and #50 in recruiting rankings? What would have happened to the subscription rates of the recruiting newsletters if that had gone through?
Here’s one other example of BC’s selfishness. This year Gale Catlett was given a hard time because he invited a 6-6 FSU team, Bowden’s last, to play in the Gator Bowl against his former team–WVU. Now on top of this great storyline, Bowden travels, so really that should have been that. But instead you people whining about why someone like BC didn’t get the slot? Forget about how many tickets FSU was going to sell, which is what matters. Instead, you had people getting hyperfocused on “results” over “revenue” and “talent”. You would think BC would think of the greater good for the conference, but as with the summer workout program, they just see it as all about them. Very selfish and sad.
McLaughlin signed as an UDFA with the Baltimore Ravens.