One on one with former Notre Dame player Kyle McCarthy
Former Notre Dame football safety and captain Kyle McCarthy had quite the career. He led the Irish in tackles in back to back seasons. He played three years in the NFL before coming back to be a graduate assistant for Coach Brian Kelly. McCarthy spoke to ABC57’s Allison Hayes about his time with the Irish and life after football.
McCarthy: I love being part of the Notre Dame family, I'm happy to be here and always cheering on the Irish on Saturdays and throughout the year. So, I'm thrilled to be here. I did have a history in ball and tried to stay around it. I'm not in it, but I'm certainly stayed around it. I work as the director of football at Athletes First, where I kind of oversee our football department and act as a player agent. I actually get the opportunity to work with a lot of former Notre Dame football players and just this past year's draft, worked with Cole Kmet and Chase Claypool, who are off to hot starts in their NFL careers. So, it's been fun and found a unique way to still be a part of the game and stay close to Notre Dame.
Allison: When you were a player here at Notre Dame, looking back on your career, what are some of maybe your favorite memories, or one that really just stands out to you, whether it was on the field or off?
McCarthy: The things that stick out are just the memories in the locker room with the guys. I mean, Notre Dame is such a special place, it attracts a special human being to go to school there and play football there. You form life-long memories and those are truly the memories that stick around. The memories after practice on a Tuesday, when someone is doing a dance off in the locker room, or something crazy like that. But for the Notre Dame fans, definitely, anytime you play in a big rival game. One that stands out to me is always the Michigan game. Shoot, back in 2009, we played in the pouring rain, and we whipped them up pretty good. Always fun to beat Michigan.
Allison: Absolutely. And then, of course, after Notre Dame, you had the opportunity to play in the NFL. I imagine that was a dream come true, had to battle through some injuries. What was that experience like for you to make it to that level, but then, kind of have it cut short?
McCarthy: Shoot, I never once thought I would play at Notre Dame, let alone in the NFL. To have that opportunity and truly live a lifelong dream is something, I'll always carry with me. You know, I wasn't very good at football, and then, you add in some injuries. So, I had a pretty short career. But, you know, it was a dream come true. It was the best job in the world. I tell my guys that I represent now, that the NFL, cherish every day you have there. Because it's true, it's the best job you could ever imagine. I still feel that way today, even though I got some aches and pains in the morning, but it's worth every minute of it. It's obviously a great thing and truly a dream come true to live that dream.
Allison: In 2014, you actually came back to Notre Dame as a graduate assistant? What was that transition like, going from being a player to actually being a coach?
McCarthy: I never thought I would play in the NFL. I always thought I would be a football coach. So, even when I was playing at Notre Dame, I always envisioned myself getting into coaching. And then, had the opportunity to join Coach Kelly, back at Notre Dame, my alma mater, which is just my dream, right? My dream. It was always to be at Notre Dame. So, it was fantastic. It was something I always wanted to do and I never once envisioned leaving. I actually bought a home in South Bend and envisioned being there as long as I possibly could. Unfortunately, ran into a health situation, while I was coaching at Notre Dame and really, kind of, personally, just kind of had to take a step back and give me the vision of ok, what do I want to do with my life?"
Allison: Of course, you touched on the health problem you faced while coaching at Notre Dame, stage 3 testicular cancer. You fought that. You battled it and you made it through to the other side. How difficult was that time for you and how has it changed your perspective now, as you look back?
McCarthy: It was a few days before training camp that I found out. It was just a, shoot, it sent shockwaves. You know, I'll tell you what, Coach Kelly, the Notre Dame staff, the Notre Dame community, all of the people, literally at the university and around the community, could not have been more supportive. I can't put into words how much that helped me through the process, and I was blessed to have a very treatable form, but you know, I was still proud of the fact that I showed up at the facility each and every day, aside from a few surgery days. But I worked my tail off and tried to be part of the team and tried to uphold my end of the bargain and that was to be a football coach at the University of Notre Dame and Coach Kelly and the staff were more than accommodating to my treatment schedules and all of that stuff. So, certainly made me look at life a little bit differently. You know, I'm not invincible, even though, I'm young and dumb, if you will. But cherish each and every day and cherish your relationships. Just enjoy where your feet are.
Allison: I imagine a big part of that is your wife and your beautiful little girl. You are a family man now. Tell us what that experience is like to have a little one running around the house?
McCarthy: She's truly a blessing to me, little Mia. My wife, Kelsey, who's a rock star. She's certainly the foundation of everything in our family. Gosh, I just got off the road, from a work job, and she, my little girl, Mia comes running up to me, saying 'Daddy!' and things like that. It's honestly, one of the reasons I left coaching. I just got to put my feet down, put my roots down, start a family. It was tough, I still miss it each day, I really do. I miss being in the arena, but to have more family time at home, that being the center of my universe, is certainly something I have no regrets about.
Allison: That's awesome. Congratulations on the family, and getting through the cancer and getting to the other side and taking us through your entire career. We thank you for your time and just a parting shot here, can you give us a little prediction on what you see for the Irish against Louisville?
McCarthy: Well, a win for sure. Notre Dame always beats Louisville. But no, they're playing well, the offensive line is beating people up, the running backs are going hard. And then, defensively, Coach Lea is doing a great job. They got some great safeties there, like Kyle Hamilton. I think the future is very bright for Notre Dame and the future is very bright for this year. They're a heck of a football team. They're playing well. So, a Notre Dame victory through and through.