ELMHURST – In his initial season at Elmhurst College last fall, Danny McHale got his first taste of collegiate action in a way that he never expected.
Primarily an offensive lineman throughout his football career, the Glenbard North graduate was thrown into the fire as a nose tackle after injuries decimated the Bluejays’ defensive front.
McHale played in four contests and recorded six tackles at his new position.
“I’ve played on the offensive line really all my life; I really only played defense in pee-wee,” he said. “I didn’t expect to come to college and play defense, but we had a bunch of injuries and I got shifted to the defensive line.
“But it was awesome. The D-line coach [John Gilligan] and all of the linemen took me under their wing and showed me what I had to do. In the 3-4 [defense], they wanted a big guy in the middle, a big guy to close it up.”
The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder is set to return to his natural position of offensive guard this season, and he’s looking forward to it.
“It was fun getting some tackles, but I belong on the offensive line,” he said.
McHale has spent his summer in Elmhurst, moving out of the dorms and into a house with four teammates, while getting prepared for camp which opens Tuesday.
“It’s been good so far,” said the business marketing major. “We didn’t have AC in the dorms, so for a big guy it’s nice to now have air conditioning.
“A bunch of guys are living up here and we’ve been busy with summer workouts, just staying in shape and getting ready for the season.”
The Bluejays are coming off their best year in program history, earning a share of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin title in 2012 and a berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs. McHale and his teammates are hoping for more of the same.
“Everyone is pumped up,” McHale said. “We are coming off a big season last year, a record-setting year. All the guys are amped up and ready to go.”
Repeating last year’s heroics won’t be easy with the CCIW expected to be challenging once again. In that regard, the league is very similar to the DuPage Valley Conference that McHale was part of when he played at Glenbard North.
“There is no week off in the CCIW, just like the DVC,” he said. “Coach [Tim] Lester last year was always saying that a majority of the games wouldn’t be decided until the last couple of minutes and that is pretty much how we won four or five games last year.
“You have got to prepare every week in the CCIW and the DVC. Every week is like a playoff game.”