Redshirt senior linebacker Colin McCarthy’s tenure as a Hurricane has had a lot of ups and downs.
He’s had great moments; in 2007 he recovered a fumble against Florida State and scored a 27-yard touchdown with barely one minute remaining to clinch a 37-29 come from behind victory. He was also tabbed with a second team All-ACC honor last year after tallying 95 tackles. He’s even had bone-crushing hits on special teams to open up holes for kick returners.
But not everything has been glamorous for McCarthy. He was part of the linebacking group that got torched by Wisconsin tight ends in the Champs Sports Bowl last year, and he had a season-ending shoulder injury in 2008 that forced him to miss nine games.
But nothing compares to what happened to McCarthy on a summer night in 2007. McCarthy was riding back to campus with former Hurricanes Jermaine McKenzie and Robert Marve. McKenzie was driving on Interstate-75 and fell asleep at the wheel. He veered off to the side of the road and the car crashed.
McKenzie suffered hairline fractures in his neck and Marve had surgery on his left wrist. Both didn’t play the next season as they recovered from injuries and eventually transferred. Meanwhile, McCarthy was shaken up, but survived with only some minor scrapes on his knees.
“That was one of the toughest moments of my life,” McCarthy said. “I’m fortunate to be blessed and back on the field. With some of the injuries I’ve had, I’m lucky to be back on the field and healthy.”
McKenzie is expected to be one of Memphis’s impact receivers this year. Marve will be the starting quarterback at Purdue after starting 11 games for UM in 2008.
Both are expected to do well and so is McCarthy, who has been tabbed the vocal leader of Hurricane defense this season.
“I think personally if we communicate there will be no issues,” said McCarthy, a 6-foot-2-inch, 240-pound Clearwater local. “We are more mature and are comfortable with making calls. We know the system and have the leaders.”
Head coach Randy Shannon, a former linebacker himself, knows how valuable linebackers are. He wants to make sure McCarthy is healthy and he also wants to make sure young linebackers are learning from McCarthy.
“Some guys are going to sit out because we don’t want them to practice,” Shannon said. “We want to see some other guys. It’s like the NFL. Like, Colin McCarthy isn’t going to practice every day.”
McCarthy has seen drastic changes in the program since he enrolled in 2006.
“We are a lot closer. People don’t care who gets the credit. You have receivers blocking down field. Running backs running down field block for receivers. We have a real unselfish team. That will help us win more,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy says acquaintances say he looks like Gerry Bertier, the all-state linebacker from “Remember the Titans.” If McCarthy shaves his head, some say he looks like Channing Tatum from “Step Up.” Teammates have given him the nickname “Pimp C.”
McCarthy doesn’t care what he’s called while on the gridiron, but when his career is over he wants to be called one thing- a winner.
“We want to win every game. [My career] isn’t over yet. I’m excited for this year and I think this year will be big,” he said.
Justin Antweil may be contacted at email@example.com