Kyle and Dan McCarthy’s grandfather, Jack Mayo, played baseball for the Irish.
By John Kovach
Kyle McCarthy is the leading tackler for the Notre Dame football team for the second straight season, after becoming the first defensive back in school history to make over 100 tackles last year.
The senior strong safety and team captain from Cardinal Mooney High is considered one of the top defensive backs in the nation — rated No. 21 among strong safeties by Phil Steele — and a projected NFL draft pick for next year.
He’ll lead the Irish against Southern California on Saturday.
In the third game of this season against Michigan State, his interception at the Notre Dame 4-yard line with 57 seconds left saved a 33-30 Irish victory.
But success aside, one of McCarthy’s fondest wishes is that he can play in at least one game alongside his younger brother Dan, a sophomore free safety for the Irish .
While Kyle has started all five games, Dan has played in only one game so far this year, a 35-0 season-opening win over Nevada.
“We have not played at the same time in a game but we have played together in scrimmages,” said Kyle, who was a senior at Mooney when Dan was a freshman. “We didn’t play at the same time against Nevada but hopefully it will happen. I think so.”
Dan also hopes that he and Kyle can be teammates on the field at the same time.
“That’s always been a goal and we still have some time left, and hopefully it will work itself out and make that happen,” said Dan.
“I just got in a few plays [against Nevada],” he added. “It was very exciting to finally get out there in front of the fans, definitely. That will probably be one of the high points of my career, playing in my first game.”
Kyle credits his success to what he learned at Cardinal Mooney.
“I learned that you have to work for it and that nothing is given to you and that commitment is important,” he said. “Those are the things that I learned from [coach P.J. Fecko],” said Kyle, who was redshirted as a freshman after having shoulder surgery.
He leads the team in four categories this season: tackles with 66 (17 solo stops and 49 assists), interceptions (3) and pass deflections (6).
For his career, Kyle has appeared in 43 games (19 starts) over four seasons and has 171 tackles, 4.5 for losses; six interceptions, eight pass breakups and one forced fumble.
Last year, Kyle set a school record by becoming the first Irish defensive back to make over 100 tackles in one season with 110.
Kyle said that playing quarterback at Mooney helped him to become a better defensive back.
“I think it helps me a lot to know where the offense attacks and the things that ballcarriers will try to do to elude tackles,” said Kyle.
Dan, meanwhile, hopes he can play again this year.
“We still got a long way to go into the season and I’m working hard and hopefully I can get in there some where again,” said Dan, who is ranked No. 5 on the depth chart behind Kyle and senior Sergio Brown, who are 1-2 at strong safety; and Harrison Smith and senior Ray Herring, 1-2 at free safety.
Kyle, who already has graduated from the Mendoza College of Business with a degree in finance, currently is enrolled in the graduate studies program. He had a 3.133 grade-point average for the 2006 spring semester.
Dan also is enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business.
Saturday’s game will provide a family reunion, as Kyle and Dan’s parents, John and Janet McCarthy, will make the trip to South Bend, Ind.
“They have a big rally Friday night and it is a lot of fun with a lot of things to do on campus,” said John McCarthy. “This is obviously a big game for seniors. The USC game at home is always the biggest game of the year.”
Janet’s father, Jack Mayo, is a Notre Dame graduate. He played baseball at Notre Dame from 1944-47 and was team captain his final year.
Also, older brother Brian McCarthy attended Notre Dame and graduated in 2006.
“There is a big Youngstown contingent that follows Notre Dame,” said John McCarthy. “They have a parents’ section and local kids come over [to visit] and Kyle and Danny are real good about [greeting] them and signing autographs.”