|Long Awaited Day For Mike McLaughlin||09.26.09 at 1:21 pm ET|
CHESTNUT HILL — It is a beautiful day on The Heights. The air is crisp, there is barbeque smoke in the air and Wake Forest is in town to take on the Eagles at Alumni Stadium.
A perfect day for football. A day long awaited by one particular individual on this Boston College squad.
Senior middle linebacker and Eagles co-captain Mike McLaughlin is set to make his return this afternoon. McLaughlin injured his right achilles tendon last March in off-season conditioning drills and has spent the entire summer and beginning of this semester trying to get back to game speed to help this young Boston College defense.
“The word I would use is hungry. I am as hungry as I have ever been in my life right now. Every day I have worked out two, three times a day getting my body ready, getting my mind ready for this day,” McLaughlin said. “It can be a little discouraging but I just thought about right now, getting ready for this day.”
“It was just one of those freak injuries,” McLaughlin said. “Something I have done nine-million times. Back pedal into a sprint. I knew right away, you could hear it snap.”
Of all injuries to sustain, there are two that athletes fear the most. The first being anything to do with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee. The other is the achilles.
McLaughlin may have been ready a few weeks ago in terms of how his achilles felt, but it has taken him time to get back to “football shape,” both physically and mentally.
“I was just upset. I never had a doubt that I wouldn’t come back,” McLaughlin said. “The day after surgery I was out there in my backyard doing pushups and sit-ups, which was not very smart, it’s just my mindset. There was no way this was going to stop me from coming back for my last season.”
Despite the loss of McLaughlin and Butkus Award finalist Mark Herzlich (Ewings Sarcoma), the Boston College defense has been up to the task. The unit has allowed only one touchdown to an opposing offense through the first three games (to Kent State late in the game) and has taken on a “bend but don’t break” kind of medium.
Part of this performance has been the outstanding, and somewhat surprising, play of true freshman Luke Kuechly. Kuechly was a beast against Clemson down in Death Valley last weekend, totaling 13 tackles (7 solo, 6 assisted) against the speedy Tigers offense.
“Luke has done and unbelievable job, like I have been telling everyone,” McLaughlin said. “To play that position in our defense is unbelievable when you’re a freshman. I mean, you are the quarterback of the defense.”
With the return of McLaughlin, Kuechly will be moved down a spot in the depth chart to make way for the senior. With the two together it appears that any question regarding the linebacker corps heading into the season have been thoroughly answered.
All to the positive.
“You kind of see flashes, you know, I don’t want to say it now, but you kind of see flashes a little bit of Mark [Herzlich] when he is out there like that. That is how Mark was when he was a freshman . . . I am not comparing them yet but whenever you see that it is a really positive thing,” McLaughlin said.
For his part, McLaughlin has been helping Kuechly make the transition to major college football. From help recognizing the offense to calling plays in the middle to words of encouragement, McLaughlin has been there. Kuechly could have done worse for himself than to have two mentors like McLaughlin and Herzlich on his shoulders.
“I have been trying to do as much as I can. I have been watching a ton of film with him through camp. In practice, if he gets yelled out you have to pull him aside,” McLauglin said. “I mean, it’s tough, he is an 18-year old kid and we are expecting him to know everything and be sharp with every little thing that he does. So it is just patting him on the butt and just saying ‘keep it up, don’t worry about it. Everything will be fine.”
As kickoff nears, McLaughlin is warming up on the field, ready to do something that some may not have thought possible six months ago.