As a sophomore last year, Will McHale ’13 started every game as an outside linebacker for the Yale football team. This year he is second on the team in total tackles, with 42, and is tied for second with three tackles for a loss. McHale sat down with the News to discuss football, his family and his future plans.
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Q: You play outside linebacker. What exactly does that entail?
A: I do a little bit of everything. We call our defense a fit defense so we play off the defensive linemen and the defensive backs play off of us. In the run I just play off the defensive end and just try to make a play on the ball carrier, and in the pass I do a whole bunch of different things related to the tight ends and man coverage.
Q: At Yale you have the opportunity to play with talented linebackers like Wes Moyer ’12 and Jordan Haynes ’12. What advantage does that give you?
A: You know, it’s great to have guys line up next to you who you know can make plays and have got your back, and you can take chances and take risks that you couldn’t take if you knew the guys weren’t as capable as the guys that I play with are. It’s kind of reassuring to know that I can fly around and make plays.
Q: Both your father and grandfather played football for Notre Dame. How has that affected you?
A: Well, I grew up in a football household … We were always talking about football, and football was always a part of the McHale family tradition. I think it is cool to say that I play the same position as my father and grandfather. I don’t know if that happens that often.
Q: You were second on the team in tackles this year and last year. What has helped you to have this success?
A: The guys who surround me on the team have put me in a position to make plays, and the guys up front have done a great job last year and this year of doing their job and clearing things for the people on the second level … Jake Stoller ’12 and Pat Moran ’12 have really done a great job of filling holes and clogging things up front.
Q: You have made three career interceptions at Yale: what is going through your mind when you make the takeaway?
A: It’s one of those things where you kind of black out … You know you’re trying to just get as much yardage as you can going in the other direction. You don’t really have time to think about it — it’s just a boom-boom thing.
Q: Are interception returns one of the things you practice?
A: It is, actually. We practice turnover circuit at least once a week, and we talk about even down to specifics on interceptions like who should be blocking who and where you try to get with the ball. We do it enough that you hope that it’s second nature, and I like to think that it is so you don’t have to think — as soon as you catch the ball you just go.
Q: Are you ever scared you’re going to fumble the ball?
A: Yeah. There’s nothing worse than fumbling after an interception.
Q: What is a typical day for a Yale football player like?
A: Busy. We practice in the morning, so we are up at 6:15 or 6:30, and we head out to practice. We don’t get back from practice until 10:30 and then there are classes all day and lift, and then we have meetings at night from 5 until 6:30. You really don’t get a chance to catch your breath until the evening. You know it’s all fun because you get really close to the guys, and it’s a good time.
Q: What is your goal for yourself and for the team this season?
A: I think what we’re going for now is the real stretch of the Ivy League schedule, and we’re looking to bounce back from last week and take it to Penn who has been the champ for the past two years. Our goal still is the Ivy League championship and to win out and finish 8–2. As far as me personally, just to keep getting better every day and keep putting in work and doing what I can do to make our defense successful.
Q: Do you see yourself playing football after Yale?
A: You know, it’s really not something that I’ve thought too hard about. It would obviously be great to continue in football in some way.
Q: Going back to your family, both your father and grandfather were involved in baseball management. Would you ever consider that?
A: Like I said with football, baseball was sort of a huge part of my life growing up, and I love being a part of the game, and I could maybe see myself working in sports at some point in my life. I think it’s a cool profession.
Q: Do you have any superstitions or pre-game rituals?
A: I was never really a big superstition guy. I just try and stay calm and relaxed before the game and not hype myself up too much.
Q: As a junior this year, do you notice anything different about being an upperclassman on the team?
A: Definitely. Between sophomore year and junior year there is a big difference. I think you’re expected to know a lot more as a junior, and people look to you not as much for advice but just to understand how things should be done. Younger guys look at you and say, “He’s doing this so I should be doing that too.” It makes it important that you’re doing the right thing and doing what you’re supposed to be doing in the defense.
Q: Was there any moment that you’ve had that you think describes your experience with Yale football?
A: I think its just the total experience of it. It’s unbelievable when you think about it how much time you spend with the guys on the team. From the season and seeing them everyday and then in the offseason working out with everybody … I think is definitely a bonding experience. You go through the tough times and that’s what bring you together.
Q: What’s your greatest individual moment that you’ve had with Yale football?
A: I think that interception versus Georgetown my sophomore year [was my greatest individual moment]. It was late in the game and gave us the chance to go on a game-winning drive. They were driving on us. They had the ball on our 15-yard line, and it switched the momentum.
Q: What is your expectation for the Harvard v. Yale game after last year’s heartbreaker?
A: It seems that we let them get away with it the past two years, but we go into it like we go into every game, expecting to win and knowing that we have to execute our game plan and that if we do, then that puts us in a position to come out with a victory. This year is no different than any other year. They’re a good team, and they’re always pretty good. We know we have to play our game and let the score settle itself.
Q: No victory predictions?
A: No, we are only in week six. You have to wait for Harvard week before you can get anything like that.