Mundelein native reflects on road to NFL
Mundelein native Sean McGrath, a Carmel Catholic High School graduate, played four games with the Seattle Seahawks last season. He is a tight end, but got on the field on special teams. | Photo courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks
Updated: February 11, 2013 8:26AM
MUNDELEIN — The Super Bowl offered many gripping story lines.
For Mundelein native Sean McGrath, watching the game proved even more meaningful — mostly because he was almost in it.
At 6-foot-5 and 247 pounds, McGrath was signed by the Seattle Seahawks in week 15 of the NFL season. He plays tight end, but the Seahawks also reached out to McGrath because he could play special teams.
McGrath blocked on kickoff returns during two regular season games and two playoff games. The Seahawks season ended Jan. 13 in the second round of the playoffs, a two-point loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Q: Who did you want to win the Super Bowl?
A: You always like to see a conference team do good to show the strength of our schedule. So, (I wanted) to see the Niners pull it out, even though there’s a bitter rivalry between us.
Q: Was it stressful having your first professional experience come during a playoff push?
A: No. Every competitor wants to shine on the biggest of big stages. You trust in your preparation because they don’t call people up unless they know we’re ready. Our training is intense.
Q: You originally committed to Army but ended up going to Eastern Illinois for two years and then Henderson State for two years. Can you share any thoughts on your unorthodox route to the NFL?
A: I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. It got a little bumpy along the way, but I think I’m a better person for going through it. Most of what happened was self-inflicted, but you live and you learn. I was released from the team at Eastern for violating team rules. Pretty much, I was having too much fun at the wrong places.
Q: How did you get back on track?
A: Coach Jeff Hoover at Eastern holds a special place in my heart. He got me into Henderson State even after what I had done. All the phone calls he made and the kind things he said about me really opened my eyes. I’m eternally grateful for the second chance he gave me. Unfortunately, he passed away (from a car accident) shortly after I left.
Q: How did Carmel Catholic High School prepare you for this journey?
A: The football program runs the triple option, so the tight ends don’t get many opportunities at catches. After I learned catching techniques in college, I became a duel threat. There aren’t many tight ends that can block and catch. In the mental aspect, Carmel Catholic High did an outstanding job of preparing me for life.
Q: Do you think you have a shot at returning to the Seahawks next season?
A: I’ve already been invited back for training camp next year, but these teams are always looking for someone better. I’m going to build more muscle in my legs during the off-season to make sure no one gets my spot.
Q: What was your most difficult task in getting to the NFL?
A: The mental aspect. You have no idea how much film we watch and how complex these schemes can get. There’s a whole lot of studying because we learn new schemes every week based on our opponent. I would say we do between 40 and 50 hours of off-the-field preparations per week.
Q: Do you have any pregame rituals?
A: I get really, really hyped up, so I listen to Jimi Hendrix to get my heart rate down.
Q: Do you have a most memorable play as a pro so far?
A: What will stick with me forever is my first play. I had to wait an entire half because the 49ers didn’t kick off in the first half. It was the opening kick of the second half, and they got on us before you can blink. I remember getting a piece of his hip and he missed the tackle because of it. We returned the ball to their 45-yard line. It was a great first play because we gave the offense a huge head start.
Q: On your team profile, your hometown is listed as “Chicago, IL” Would you consider asking the team to change it to “Mundelein, IL?”
A: They got that from my Henderson State profile. Yeah, I can see myself asking for “Mundelein” instead. I’ll write that down so I don’t forget.