Right before embarking on his first season as a graduate assistant coach at his alma mater, Notre Dame, Kyle McCarthy started to feel a loss of energy and experience stomach and back pains.
“No timing is good timing, but it was especially bad because it was a few days before training camp started,” McCarthy said. “I was diagnosed with Stage 3 testicular cancer. I had to get started with my treatment.”
Over the next four months, McCarthy, 28, underwent surgeries and chemotherapy without missing a beat with the team. He was at practice, in his office and on the sideline at games – just like he planned all along. Then, he got the tremendous news in November his cancer was completely gone.
“I’m pretty fired up about it, to say the least,” McCarthy said. “The support from all angles made this whole thing much easier on me. I really can’t thank the people who helped me out and gave me thoughts and prayers throughout this enough.”
McCarthy grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, as a lifelong sports fan with a tremendous passion for football. After playing safety for the Fighting Irish from 2005 to 2009, he spent the last four years playing for Denver, Kansas City and Oakland in the NFL. He came back to South Bend after accepting this first coaching job in February.
“Growing up an Irish Catholic in Northern Ohio, I think I was brainwashed at a young age to dream of playing for Notre Dame,” McCarthy said. “Fortunately, I had the opportunity to do that. It really is such a special place.”
He also got a little extra scheduling assistance from his doctor, who just might have seen Rudy a time or two.
“I think the doctor was a Notre Dame fan, so he really helped me out with my schedule,” McCarthy said. “He would even send me to a different hospital on holidays so I could have treatment on days when we had a lighter workload and on game days and things like that.”
And the fact McCarthy had football in his life to occupy his mind and time was a big reason he was able to maintain a positive attitude.
“It was great to be able to go to the facility and work on things to keep me going, keep me active and keep me energized,” McCarthy said. “I had to do some of the treatments and chemotherapy during the day but, fortunately, it doesn’t last through the night, so I was able to get to the facility on time and to games to be with the guys.”
McCarthy’s work ethic and fighting spirit have always been evident to his coaches and teammates.
“Kyle was as solid of a teammate as you could ask for – on and off the field,” said Jarvis Moss, who played at Denver with McCarthy. “When I think about Kyle, I think about his attention to detail and being able to help someone else get lined up correctly by being that dialed in on his job and the entire defense’s jobs. It’s great to see a smaller guy that does everything correct to show his worth and strengths. Beating cancer definitely shows Kyle’s strength.”
Now, McCarthy can focus on being the best coach he can for the team he loves so dearly.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate to come back to a place like Notre Dame,” McCarthy said. “Coach [Brian] Kelly and the staff have been incredible. They have supported me so much and have been so understanding about my situation off the field. I really feel blessed to be in a place I’m familiar with and my family is familiar with through this process.”