Shane McGough: Path to the NFL DRaft
Just over 1,250 miles south of First Energy Stadium, Cleveland sits Florida International University. The FIU Panthers have only sent 10 players to the NFL Draft but later this week, offensive lineman Shane McGough hopes to add to that number. He would become the first lineman from the program to be drafted to the NFL, but he’s confident he has what it takes to succeed at the next level.
“I think I bring a lot to the table at the offensive line position. Being able to be a faster guy — especially with the level of speed on the defensive line now-a-days – being able to get in the right position and get in front of those guys is something really huge. I play with a chip on my shoulder. I am a physical guy, play pretty mean but it’s controlled. Just love the position. I understand the game schematically and read defenses really well. Being a center you have to be able to make certain calls and have certain leadership qualities that I believe I have.”
The surname may sound familiar to NFL Draft and NFL fans alike. Three years ago, his brother Alex McGough was one of the 10 players from FIU to be drafted to the NFL when he was a seventh-round selection of the Seattle Seahawks. Not only did the brothers play together for the Panthers, but Alex has been a supportive voice during Shane’s NFL Draft process.
“Every time I have a question, he’ll answer it but really he just keeps my head on straight and makes sure I don’t get too overwhelmed and don’t start thinking about it too much. He kinda just reminds me to relax, keep my head on straight, stay confident, and something will happen eventually.”
Family support has been a constant factor in Shane McGough’s path to the NFL Draft. His parents have never missed an FIU game while both him and Alex have been a part of the Panthers program. Additionally, their athletic backgrounds help fuel a love of sport from a young age.
“Both my parents were athletes growing up. My Mum played college volleyball and my Dad played college football. Growing up with two older siblings, being the youngest and seeing them both play sports. I played baseball, was on the soccer team, played lacrosse for a while but football was there. That was the one I fell in love with.”
'If You Don't Do Your Job, He's Toast'
His love for the game was predicated on two factors: collaboration and collisions.
“Football’s one of those sports, it’s the most team-orientated sport there is. To have to rely on other people to have a successful team, that really stood out to me. Then the physical, hitting aspect fits my personality, to be honest.”
No other position quite encapsulates those qualities than the offensive line. However, early in his career Shane McGough was a star on defense, making the transition to the offensive line only in his junior season at Gaither High School. He was initially resistant to the switch, but soon grew to love his new role and the responsibility it bought.
“I came into high school as a linebacker and then kept getting bigger. In my junior year my coach sat me down in his office and said “look, we need you to play left tackle”. At first, I actually didn’t want to, and I sat down with my Dad when I got home – everyone wants to be an athlete, everyone wants to be the guy getting the highlights – but he said “this is what the team needs, this is what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to understand that he’s not asking you to do it because you’re a bad player! He’s asking you because you can”. Made a decision to try it out and do what the team needed and ever since then, honestly, I fell in love with the offensive line. The protection feel you get when the guy behind you is counting on you and if you don’t do your job, he’s toast.”
Having the experience of playing defense helped him as he honed his craft as an offensive lineman during his high school career.
“It helps you understand defenses schematically. Playing offensive line there’s a lot of stuff you need to know about linebackers flowing and alignments and what they mean. Having played the position you see a guy widen out and you know what he’s doing, it’s in your head already. It definitely helps you to see the defense better having played it, helps you understand the whole picture a lot better.”
His personal experience of playing defense helped sharpen his football intelligence for his role on the offensive line. Additionally, playing high school football in the state of Florida presented opportunities for him to develop his game further. It was the ultimate example of the “iron sharpens iron” cliché.
“There’s so many talented guys coming out of Hillsborough County where I played high school ball. To have that level of talent, it obviously helps you because of the level of competition you’re playing against, you have to step your game up to that level or higher to be able to beat those guys. It helps and it hurts because there’s a lot of college scouting that goes on in those areas but there’s also so many other guys that are there that those colleges are looking at so it’s more competition. It’s not like you’re the one standout kid.”
Becoming A Panther
The latter point was demonstrated for Shane McGough with his own college recruiting experience. Despite being named to the All-Western Conference first-team in both his junior and senior seasons, he wasn’t heavily recruited or highly ranked by the major recruiting sites. The two-star recruit was ranked as just the 408th player in the state, with little interest from Division I college programs.
“Those numbers and that, you hear a lot of guys talk about the two-stars and three-stars that are in the NFL now that have had great careers and they tell people that numbers don’t matter. I didn’t really take that to heart. I knew that I was a good player and knew that I could play at the college level and that all I needed was a shot. I didn’t let it take a burden on me. You keep your head down and keep on working and ended up getting a chance.”
That chance would come in the form of Florida International where family and football would become intertwined for Shane McGough.
“My brother was already down there so I was comfortable with the staff. I’d been going to the games, so they knew who I was. I went to one of the FIU camps and did pretty well. After the camp, I got a call and they offered me a scholarship. The next day I committed knowing that I got the chance to play with my older brother. That was a huge part of it. I’d probably say about 70% of the decision. Just having that bond with the team even before coming in, you can’t get better than that.”
Redshirting & First Game Nerves
Despite having starred on Friday nights for Gaither, Shane McGough redshirted his freshman season at FIU in 2016. Although it required a period of adjustment, the offensive lineman learned to accept his role and the value that practicing on the scout team had on Saturdays.
“It’s tough. It definitely kinds of eats at you a little bit. You get to the point where you feel like haven’t played football in forever, even though you’re practicing you never get the game experience for a long time. It’s something you have to remember as being part of the process. My redshirt freshman season I was on the scout team and you have to accept that role and take it as what it is, do it the best you can, and give that starting defense the best look you can. You have to relish in the fact that that’s your role and know your time will come.”
Having spent the 2016 preparing others for the game on Saturday, Shane McGough’s time did come the following year. He saw time in nine games, with two starts and vividly remembers the first time he ran out on the field to take his first snap as a Panther.
“I was pretty nervous. It was against UCF. I knew it was a possibility so you prepare the best you can. When the time came, coach came over and said “hey, next drive you’re in”. Your stomach drops and you’re like ohhh here we go! Alex was still on the team at that point, and he knew I was going on. He kinda looked at me and said: “after the first play you’ll be fine” and that’s what it was.”
The brothers would get to play together for just one season before Alex departed for the 2018 NFL Draft. It was a special season for the entire McGough family.
“It’s awesome. It’s something that we’ll never forget. My Dad’s got a picture from that game of me snapping to Alex and I think it might still be his wallpaper. He’s got a picture of us from Pop Warner football, so he has the two pictures side by side in his office. I think that’ll be up there forever.”
A Formidable Offensive Line
Over the next three years, Shane McGough would become a pivotal part of an impressive offensive line for the Panthers. In 2018 they allowed just 8 sacks – a school record. In 2019, the unit allowed just 14 sacks, the fifth lowest in the nation. They were particularly strong in the ground game, carving open rushing lanes to devastating effect including a 350-yard rushing game against Charlotte that ranked as the fourth-best in program history.
“We had a lot of experience on the offensive line, and we were a really tight group. Some groups, you have five guys who play football together and that’s about it. We were hanging out outside of the field so that we had a bond and understanding of each other. There was so much trust that you knew what the other person was doing without having to look at them. You’d read a situation and know that your left guard was going to be there and that sort of thing. The trust and the communication on the line, was top of the line.”
For the longest time, the importance of offensive lineman was overlooked. Even as we hurtle towards the 2021 NFL Draft, the fact that the Cincinnati Bengals may bypass Penei Sewell when they watched their rookie quarterback suffer a season ending injury emphasises that the NFL still doesn’t give offensive lineman the respect they deserve.
“It’s getting better with a lot of big names, and the top-of-the-line guys that are coming out, they’re getting a bit more respect. But a lot of offensive linemen, and I know I’m the same, that’s not why you’re playing. That’s just the way it is and that’s a part of playing as an offensive lineman.”
Following a shortened 2020 season where FIU played just five games, Shane McGough declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. Although the NCAA extended an extra year of eligibility, he never considered returning for another go around, feeling that he was ready to make the next step. Despite the disruption to the All-Star game circuit, the FIU offensive lineman was invited to one of the only functioning events – The Hula Bowl.
“It was great exposure. There was a lot of different competition that you don’t get to see playing at your school and your conference. You don’t really get the chance to play Big Ten schools, SEC schools so to be able to go down there and in front of a bunch of NFL scouts show that you can play up to that competition really helps your stock and shows them that this kid can’t just block Conference-USA guys, but he can do what we need him to do.”
In addition to an impressive performance at the Hula Bowl, and three years as a full-time starter at FIU, one of the defining components of Shane McGough’s draft stock is versatility. He’s played across the offensive line during his football career, and now more than ever versatility is a buzz word in the NFL.
“It’s everything. Especially now-a-days, there’s limited spots on the 53 man and limited spots on the practice squad. Having more on your resume helps put you on the top of the pile. Being able to play center but if someone gets hurt and you’re able to swing, that’s one less lineman that they have to have because you take him two different positions. It helps a lot. It just shows that you’re a versatile lineman, quick learner, and comfortable at multiple positions.”
The Dream Is In Sight
During the All-Star game cycle Shane McGough had contact with multiple NFL teams. As the 2021 NFL Draft gets closer the interest in the versatile offensive lineman from FIU has increased.
“At the three bowl games I went to I met with some teams, a few teams. When your name gets called you go chat it up with the scouts. They’re just trying to understand who you are and make sure they’re not making a bad investment. It’s been good. It boosts your confidence. There’s definitely interest. I’m getting phone calls as we get closer and I’m just excited to see what happens.”
For Shane McGough, it’s only a matter of days to wait until he knows what will happen next in his football career. The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off in just two days. What will it mean to follow in his brother’s footsteps and hear his name called in Cleveland?
“There’s really no words. It’s something I’ve been working on since the third grade. It would be a dream come true. It would mean the world to me and my family and show them that all the trips, car rides, practices that I was taken to and all the equipment they had to buy was all worth it.”
OLIVER HODGKINSON IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER FOR THE TOUCHDOWN. HE ALSO WRITES ON THE NFL FOR THE PRO FOOTBALL NETWORK. YOU CAN HEAR HIS OPINIONS ON ALL THINGS COLLEGE FOOTBALL AS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.
Huge thanks to Shane McGough for taking the time to speak to us.