080917_spt_gmt_mcglinchey Mike McGlinchey

There were times when Mike McGlinchey felt as if he needed to carry around his birth certificate.

When McGlinchey played in summer basketball leagues in North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest, he usually towered over not only his peers, but also many of the players two or three years older.

Observers would often joke that McGlinchey must’ve been much older.

“Definitely, it came up often,” McGlinchey said with a laugh. “But then when I got a little older I would just play up a level. I was able to play in the men’s league in North Wildwood when I was in high school and I played in the high school league when I was in eighth grade.

“But when I was very young, there were definitely some jokes about it.”

No one jokes about McGlinchey’s size anymore.

These days, McGlinchey, a Philadelphia native who spent every summer of his childhood in North Wildwood, stands 6-8 and weighs 315 pounds. He’s putting that size to good use as one of the top offensive linemen in major college football. He’s set to finish out a productive career at Notre Dame this fall.

So productive that McGlinchey is projected to be a high first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. NFLdraftscout.com has him listed as its No. 1 NFL prospect at offensive tackle.

Some draft experts had him pegged as a first-round pick in 2017 had he chosen to leave Notre Dame after his redshirt junior season. But McGlinchey, now a graduate student after earning a degree in film, television and theater, did not hesitate to return for his final season of eligibility.

“I think I have a lot left to accomplish as a college football player,” McGlinchey said. “Personally I didn’t think I had as great of a season as could I have had last year, so that was a good personal reason to come back. And we didn’t do too hot as a team last year (going 4-8) on top of that, so there was a lot of motivation behind it from the team side of it. I don’t want to leave Notre Dame with that kind of taste in my mouth.”

McGlinchey, whose cousin, Matt Ryan, is the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, hails from a large Irish Catholic family that has owned a vacation home at 14th and Ocean in North Wildwood for decades. Ryan also often summered at the same home and still occasionally visits. McGlinchey’s younger brother, Frank, and two of his other cousins, Patrick and Jake McCain, worked this summer as lifeguards on the North Wildwood Beach Patrol.

Getting the chance to play football for the Fighting Irish was a dream come true for McGlinchey.

“Absolutely, because I always watched them on TV growing up,” he said. “But there was some conflicting interest as kid, too, because as I was growing up Matt was at Boston College so we always rooted hard for BC. But as I got to know more about football and I’d get to see the Irish on NBC every Saturday, it was definitely a place when I was getting recruited that I waited out for. I’m glad it worked out and that I got to go to a great spot.”

McGlinchey is a three-year starter who has played in 38 games for Notre Dame, with 26 consecutive starts. He is one of only four offensive linemen in the country selected to the 2017 Preseason Maxwell Award Watchlist. The 2016 second-team All-American is just the 22nd different two-time captain in Notre Dame football history.

Notre Dame, unranked in most preseason polls, is set to open the season Sept. 2 against Temple in South Bend.

“I’m looking at this year as that I’m getting ready and using this as a tryout for the pros,” McGlinchey said. “I really want to play the next couple months at the level I’m capable of playing at and help us win a lot of games.”

McGlinchey, a graduate of Penn Charter High School in Philadelphia, appreciates all of the Notre Dame fans in the region, particularly those in Philadelphia and in North Wildwood.

“The support’s always there,” he said. “Every time I come home people reach out and say good luck to me. Every time I walk the beach in North Wildwood, I see Irish and Notre Dame flags all over the place. I always appreciate it when people root for you from where you grew up and it’s nice to know they’re thinking about you as the season goes on.”

These days, they’re thinking of him as one of the top players in all of college football and not as the big kid who towered over the rest.

Middle Township Gazette reporter. Call me anytime you have news for the paper or the website. 609-365-6176