Photo courtesy of Conor McHale
Conor McHale, a former Marist High School football player and Marine, signed up to play at St. Xavier University.
Football practice is usually pretty tough and college football practices are not considered easy.
But St. Xavier University has a recruit who may not find them as daunting as perhaps some other new players.
Conor McHale is one of five athletes to sign with the Cougars last week and the 23-year-old Marist graduate has already been through basic training with the Marines and has been deployed in the Middle East three times.
Now the Alsip native is back home and looking for an education. He also wants to try his hand at football again. He has no dreams of an NFL career. But he wants to play on the college level.
“My main focus is school obviously,” McHale said. “I’m a little too old to be playing games. Realistically, it’s time to focus on school but I also wanted that aspect of sports back in my life. Sports and the military intertwine pretty well. You have the work ethic and the general nature of the camaraderie in both of them.
“I want to surround myself with that again.’’
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound outside linebacker candidate said he was a starting nose guard for Marist’s 2009 team that took second in the state in Class 8A when he was a junior and that RedHawks assistant coach Mike Brennan helped broker talks with SXU coach Mike Feminis.
McHale was not able to play football during his five-year military career so he is not sure what to expect this season.
“I’m not going to go into the season with any expectations,” McHale said. “I’m going into the season with an open mind. I’ll work for a spot just like anyone else.’’
Feminis is happy to have someone with McHale’s background on the squad.
“Although he hasn’t played since his high school days at Marist, he is coming to SXU to earn his degree and play some football,” SXU football coach Mike Feminis said. “We can’t thank the men and women who serve our country enough for their sacrifices, so having a guy like Conor on our team is really special.’’
The Cougars also signed Evergreen Park running back Eric Williams Jr., a two-year starter.
“We’re ecstatic to land Eric,” Feminis said. “He is really quick and similar to (current SXU running back) Jamarri Watson, who had an excellent season for us.’’
Others signed were wide receiver Elliott Pipkin (Oswego), quarterback Luke Nolan (Crystal Lake South) and linebacker Patrick Olson (Valparaiso, Indiana).