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!

Yeah! (laughs)

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.

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