John McLaughlin Looks for Pac-10 Sack Title

Senior DE bids for big year in '98

August 20, 1998

Turlock - John McLaughlin wants to make up for lost time. The senior defensive end has always had a load of potential, but it's always seemed like there was something holding back his progress.

Whether it was his decision to transfer from Notre Dame early in his college career and start fresh at Cal, his inability to sustain more than 215 or 220 pounds on his 6-4 frame, academic problems brought on by his lifelong battle with Attention Deficit Disorder, things have never quite clicked for McLaughlin.

That's not to say he hasn't had his share of success. After all, he did start one game in his first two seasons at Notre Dame and helped the Irish to a pair of berths in the Orange (he collected a sack in this game)and Fiesta Bowls. He also earned first team All-Pac-10 honors last season at Cal for his impact as a special teams performer.

However, this year he appears ready to accomplish so much more. Through a rigorous off-season weight conditioning program, he's a rock solid 243 pounds. He also says he's faster than ever, turning in a 4.5 clocking in the 40 during spring testing. He's also more motivated than he's ever been to emerge as a dominant football player.

"I've always been serious when I'm playing the game of football, but I never really liked all the other aspects," he says. "I just wanted to line up and play. I didn't want to commit myself to lifting weightsand watching films. Some of it may have something to do with me being afraid of failure. Psychologically, I think I always wanted to have an excuse as to why I wasn't being more successful.

"I think I've broken through that this year. I committed myself to lifting weights and I started to see the results. I found out I liked it. Now, I don't have any excuses. I'm ready to play some violent football this season. "I'm not one who thinks a lot about goals, but I want to lead the Pac-10 in sacks this season."

If McLaughlin emerges as one of the top defensive players in the conference this season, it may serve as a springboard to a pro career. Even in the NFL, you don't often find guys at 6-4 and 245 pounds who can run 4.5 in the 40. While he'll liklely be moved to outside linebacker at the next level, he clearly has the physical characteristics that could make him a high draft choice. "I hadn't really thought that much about it, but there's been a lot of attention from scouts, so that's also a motivating factor for me."

For now, McLaughlin is totally focused on being a big contributor to what figures to be Cal's finest defensive unit in perhaps three decades. "I want to do well, especially for the people who have helped me here at Cal.," he says. "There were times when I was really down, struggling academically, and so many people told me to keep my head up and keep battling. I want to help repay those people, the coaches, the teachers, the tutors, my friends, by having a good year and helping the program and the school be successful this year."

The talented defensive end has maintained a battle through his first two years at Cal to maintain eligibility. In this year's media guide, he isn't pictured on any of the covers, mainly because his eligibility was in doubt until he successfully completed some academic obligations. That surprises many who know the soft-spoken senior as a bright, articulate, fun-loving person.

However, he was diagnosed early in his life with Attention Deficit Disorder and that inability to concentrate has wreaked havoc with his academic progress. "ADD has impacted every part of my life," he said. "It was tough on my parents because if they sent me to my room to discipline me, I'd just become interested in something new in there right away. If they took TV away from me, it didn't matter because I was constantly turning my attention to something new anyway.

"It's been a pain in the butt in a lot of ways. I'll sometimes be talking about something and right in the middle of the conversationn,I'll completely lose my train of thought. Or I'll just zone out when I'm trying to concentrate on studying. My girlfriend thinks it's kind of cute, but I don't exactly feel the same way."

McLaughlin did say that his affliction does help him on the football field in some ways. His mind is so active, that he says he can pick up little things that nobody else might notice, even when he's going full speed. "People with ADD pick up all the little things around them and when I'm pass rushing, I have a good feel about what's happening around me. I can recognize a draw play quicker than anybody else, because that's just the way my mind works"

New Cal line coach Bill Dutton has coached defensive linemen for over 40 seasons, working with over 300 different players during his 40-year coaching career. Yet, he says that McLaughlin is the fastest defensive lineman he's ever coached, on the college or pro level.

Quickness and speed have never been an issue with MCLauglin during his career. Now, he finally has the strength, bulk and power to go along with that speed. That combination along with McLaughlin's newfound approach to making 1998 a very special football season may spell nightmares for offensive tackles all across the country.

By Kevin Reneau