ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There was a weekly routine.
In the days after Notre Dame's latest game, the Fighting Irish's captain and All-American tackle would place a call.
Dan McCain would answer as more than Mike McGlinchey's cousin. He was his best friend. He was his biggest fan. And he was an interested observer.
"When I was in college, I'd always call Dan on Mondays or Tuesday to get his full report on the game, and he would tell me what he thought and asked me questions about what happened," McGlinchey says. "Whether win, lose or draw, he was always the first call I wanted to make."
Those are the calls McGlinchey wishes he could still make, and he admits that his postgame routine isn't quite the same since McCain passed away on July 23 at the age of 31 from multi-organ failure.
"It feels a little empty sometimes after games without him, especially when we're winning," McGlinchey says. "He was always there to talk me off the ledge, he was always there to tell me when I needed to wake up. His fandom and his ability to keep me in perspective was always what I valued most."
McCain — or DMac, as he's known in McGlinchey's family — was born with microscopic holes in his lungs, according to McGlinchey. The condition inhibited the growth of his organs and body, and McGlinchey says "it was always a challenge for him from the start." In a previous conversation about McCain, McGlinchey says his cousin wasn't expected to live past five years old. Then 10 years old. Then 15.
But McCain just kept fighting.
As a kid, McGlinchey doesn't remember anyone explicitly explaining the need to take care of and include McCain. It's simply what his family did. McGlinchey says he grew up on the same street as McCain and his family, and they'd spend the summers together.
"I considered him a brother more than a cousin," McGlinchey says. "He was always there, and he was always with us. Everything about our family was how to keep Dan around and keep Dan involved."
"… It was always important to us that Dan felt special and Dan felt like he belonged. Dan made sure of that, which was the best part about him. He was the toughest dude I've ever met — the things that he went through and the life that he lived, he lived it for us and for my family. That's why he was the best guy ever, and I miss him every day."
As he battled, McCain poured himself into both football and his relationship with McGlinchey.
"He was my best friend and biggest supporter," McGlinchey says. "Since I was in high school, he rarely missed one of my games. He lived through me and he lived through the rest of my brothers and my cousins and everybody that played. He was our number one fan, number one supporter. Football was everything to Dan."
McCain got to know McGlinchey's teammates and even worked with the equipment staff for a couple of his teams.
A few years ago, as McCain faced a tough stretch of health problems, McGlinchey looked to provide a beacon of hope. After featuring Autism Speaks on his cleats in honor of his brother Jim during the first three iterations of the NFL's My Cause My Cleats initiative, McGlinchey brought McCain onto the field with him.
"He was choked up," McGlinchey says. "He couldn't believe that I chose to do that. It was the right thing to do, and it was always something I wanted to do. I think he turned the first pair of cleats into a Christmas ornament. He wrapped it around the tree one year. He loved it. He definitely loved it."
McGlinchey was on injured reserve and unable to play in San Francisco's 2021 My Cause My Cleats game, but he again highlighted McCain and Donor Network West in a win over the Dolphins in 2022.
In what will be "a special game" for both him and his family, McGlinchey will honor McCain on Sunday through the _My Cause My Cleats _initiative for the first time since his passing in July.
"He's always with us," McGlinchey says, "and I get to have a little concrete evidence of that this week."
And as the Broncos look to continue their five-game winning streak, McGlinchey believes DMac may have a hand in Denver's recent run of success.
"You carry a little weight with you every day in losing him," McGlinchey says, "but [I] know that he's there watching over us and certainly might have a little bit of an influence upstairs on how the Broncos are doing right now."
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