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Helmets Off: Kyle McCarthy

Posted Dec 9, 2010

Rookie safety Kyle McCarthy discusses his path to the active roster, 'Domer Dinners' with former Notre Dame teammates and the tough mentality of his hometown.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Kyle McCarthy joined the Broncos as a college free agent last April after playing 38 career games at Notre Dame. He started 26 contests, totaling 241 tackles and eight interceptions.

The first Notre Dame defensive back to eclipse the 100-tackle mark in a season, McCarthy accomplished the feat in each of his final two campaigns. The rookie talks about going undrafted, battling his way up to the active roster and the bond between young players in the secondary in this week's edition of Helmets Off.

Take me through the time between the draft and when you signed with the Broncos.
"Everyone is excited for the NFL Draft, and I expected to get drafted and was a little disappointed when I didn't get the call. But obviously I ended up with the Broncos. They gave me a chance, so I couldn't be happier to be here. After the draft, coming in as a free agent you're fighting an uphill battle, but I learned from a young age that if you want anything you've just got to work for it. I kept my head down, kept working and didn't make the team after final cuts but got signed to the practice squad. I knew the dream was still alive. It wasn't the final goal -- I wanted to be on the 53-man roster, but just kept working in practice. Some things happened in the middle of the season, I got the call and I'm just trying to take advantage of it."

Being undrafted, do you have more of a chip on your shoulder to show teams what they missed?
"Definitely. I've always been overlooked a little bit, and I don't know what it is, if it's my size or what, but it definitely gives me a little chip on my shoulder to show people that I can play in this league and I can contribute and help a team win."

What did you gain from being on the practice squad to start the season?
"I got to sit back and watch the veterans get ready for the game. I got to see how Brian Dawkins prepared on game week, how Renaldo Hill would study film and get the defense down, so I think that helped me tremendously. It was a blessing in disguise a little bit, because I really learned a lot."

What was the feeling like when you were called up to the active roster?
"It was great. It was a dream come true, I know it's a pretty vanilla answer, but just to be able to call my parents and let them know that I made the team was a pretty special feeling."

Was it nerve-wracking to jump right into the next game against the Jets on special teams?
"All year (Special Teams Coordinator Mike) Priefer and (Defensive Coordinator Don) 'Wink' (Martindale) always told me to keep preparing and stay ready. I learned quickly that they weren't lying. I had to get in there right away and contribute on special teams, and I loved it. The opportunity was great and I'm going to try to stay up here and contribute as much as I can."

Now that you've gotten into a couple games on defense as well, how different is the NFL than college? Are you getting more comfortable?
"It's a lot different. Just the speed of the game is completely different, the athletes you're going against every play are different -- you're not the best athlete on the field anymore. You've just got to prepare a little harder and be ready to play. The first game the nerves were going a little bit, but I'm starting to get a lot more comfortable, and I think it's going to start showing on the film, too."

There are five Notre Dame guys on the roster -- all of whom are former teammates. Is it fun to have that South Bend feel here in Denver?
"It's been great. Brady (Quinn) and Ryan (Harris) and Eric (Olsen) and David (Bruton), they're all good friends of mine. We're all close. Every Thursday we have 'Domer Dinner,' we go out to dinner together. It's been great to have them here and they've really helped me feel comfortable in the locker room."

How helpful were those guys to your transition to Denver and the pros?
"Just moving to Denver, Ryan and Brady were here for a little bit and David, they've been great. Anything I've needed they've been offering. I couldn't ask for better teammates."

Is there a bond between all the young players in the secondary?
"Definitely. I think we're growing up a lot together. None of us were real high picks and a couple of us free agents, so it's pretty cool that we all fought the odds and made the roster and are out there playing together. It's been a cool experience."

You also played baseball in high school -- did you ever think of playing baseball over football?
"I definitely thought about it in high school. My grandfather, who is without a doubt my biggest role model, he played for the Phillies in the '50s, so I had a little baseball in me. But I just love the game of football too much, and it was always my dream to play in the NFL. I went that route."

There are a lot of professional athletes from Youngstown, Ohio, your home town. What is it about Youngstown?
"Youngstown is a great place. I'm so proud to be from there. It's just a bunch of hard-working people, blue-collar people that work for what they get. Like I said earlier, when I found out that I wasn't getting drafted, I couldn't get down on myself about it. I knew that I needed to work for my dream, and I learned that from the people in Youngstown."

The majority of the successful athletes from Youngstown are boxers and football players. Is there a toughness to the town?
"Without a doubt. Back in the day, the steel mills were huge, and you've got a lot of tough people from there. You just learn at a young age you've got to be tough and work hard or else things aren't going to go your way. I've learned a lot from the town I'm from, and hope to give back to it someday."

Being from Ohio, I assume you're a huge LeBron James fan...
(long pause) "I am disinterested in LeBron James at this moment."