Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 11, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 49 of 55

50 SEPT. 11, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH IN THE PROS BY TODD D. BURLAGE O ne of the first lessons football coaches at every level try to teach their players in this electronically invasive era is to keep all the outside internet chatter outside — both the bad and the good. Social media has changed the game and made college, pro and even high school players easy marks for keyboard bullies, armchair experts and hindsight geniuses. After playing four years under the in- tense microscope at Notre Dame, former Irish All-American Mike McGlinchey seemed to masterfully apply those "tune out" lessons during his college years and through his first two seasons as the start- ing left tackle for the San Francisco 49ers. But through the boredom, some on- field struggles and a growing paranoia during COVID-19 isolation last year, Mc- Glinchey — now his fourth season with San Francisco — succumbed to tempta- tion and began glancing at the online crit- icisms and comments directed his way. Those quick glances turned into a full- blown obsession, and McGlinchey admits now to how severely it impacted his men- tal health and his confidence, not to men- tion his on-field performance last season. "I had never really dealt with some- thing like that before," McGlinchey said in a story for "I had never dealt with people who had access to me who didn't necessarily know what they were talking about, some right, some wrong. "But when you hear something enough and you see something enough, you start kind of believing it yourself." This internet obsession pulled Mc- Glinchey to emotional rock bottom last December after a disappointing loss to the Washington Football Team when he was flagged for a costly holding penalty that negated a 22-yard gain and essentially ended any chance for a comeback. Instagram and Twitter followers piled on, taking shots at McGlinchey on every- thing from the ill-timed penalty, to his overall performance slippage, to his much lighter playing weight, and McGlinchey scrolled through every word of it. "I was focusing on the negative things that were happening to me," McGlinchey explained, "rather than, 'How can I get better? How can I help my team win? And how can I have fun with this?'" Under normal circumstances, a meal out with teammates, a face-to-face visit with family and friends, or a hug from his girlfriend could have helped ease Mc- Glinchey's self-doubt. But in a season shrouded by the COVID-19 cloud, those outlets weren't options. The sometimes barbaric internet posts eventually slowed and recovery began for McGlinchey about two weeks after his 49ers finished their forgettable 2020 sea- son with a 6-10 final record, a 1-7 mark in home games and a last-place finish in the rugged NFC West Division. It was a full-team failure that Mc- Glinchey put squarely on himself. McGlinchey explained that self-as- suredness — or a lack thereof — was at the root of the worst season of his entire football career. "The biggest thing, the thing that sepa- rates you at this level, it's your mind, it's really your focus," McGlinchey said. ESPN interviewed Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame head coach explained that his for- mer player's endless quest for perfection became a heavy load to bear at times. "He's very prideful. He keeps a lot of stuff inside," Kelly said. "… He's harder on himself than any one individual fan could be." McGlinchey's recovery began with the help of family, friends and teammates — and a mental conditioning coach named Derin McMains. McGlinchey and McMains connected by phone and hit it off immediately. They still talk frequently and the conversa- tions always focus on where McGlinchey allows his mind to go during the mo- ments that matter most, especially on game days. "Believe and commit, that's the cycle, it just continues for 65 to 70 snaps a game," McGlinchey explained. "The more you can do it, the more freely you can play." And 49ers head coach Kyle Shana- han said during training camp that Mc- Glinchey's transformation is evident. "Just talking to him, being around him, you can tell he's in a great space and a great place," Shanahan said. "And I think he's ready to go." As the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, 2021 will be the final year of McGlinchey's "discounted" four-year rookie contract. Showing faith in a full mental recovery, the 49ers in the spring picked up Mc- Glinchey's fifth-year option for 2022, a contract move that guarantees he'll re- ceive $10.88 million next season. "It was something I worried about be- fore, but it's not something that I'll never worry about again," he said. "The two things that will take care of all of it are my job and my technique. If I do those things the right way 75 times a day, 75 times a game, the rest will take care of itself." And to that end, McGlinchey's fresh mental outlook spilled into his physical preparation this offseason. After playing at 290 pounds last sea- son — an undersized build for an NFL tackle — McGlinchey added 25 pounds of good weight and started this season at 315 pounds and in a better place mentally. "I get to come in and hang out with my best friends every day, play football and compete at something I am really damn good at," he said. "I have to remember that. I have to get the weight of the world off my shoulders. "… You just got to do your job, do it to the best of your ability and have fun with it." ✦ Mike McGlinchey Is Beating An Invisible Enemy McGlinchey, now in his fourth NFL season with the San Francisco 49ers, battled self-doubt last season. With help, he has implemented a fresh mental approach this year that has carried over to his physical preparation. He is checking in a healthy 25 pounds heavier than in 2020. PHOTO COURTESY SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Sept. 11, 2021