Long Island University football head coach Bryan Collins could immediately tell that Liam McIntyre had the potential to be a building block of the Sharks’ defense.
It didn’t take the Westhampton product long to show why.
Late in the first half of Saturday’s season-opening 38-3 loss at South Dakota State in LIU’s inaugural FCS campaign, McIntyre flew off the edge with South Dakota quarterback Kanin Nelson in his sights.
McIntyre — last year’s Carl. A Hansen Award winner as the top player in Suffolk County — went untouched and sacked Nelson as the quarterback tucked the ball in an attempt to escape. McIntyre, a state runner-up wrestler last winter, easily grappled Nelson to the ground.
“I thought in my head that I belonged the whole time, but it was nice to actually get out there and prove it to other people, prove it to myself,” said McIntyre, who was “definitely nervous” at the start of the game.
McIntyre, who is 6-0 and 205 pounds, led the team with eight tackles (six solo), and Collins said he was impressed at how the outside linebacker was able to adjust after early mental lapses.
“Certainly, he made some mental mistakes there, and some of his mistakes are things you can learn from in a game,” Collins said. “Certainly, for a true freshman to come in from high school and play the No. 3 team in the country in South Dakota … he definitely did more than hold his own. He was making plays out there.”
Initially a verbal commit to Brown, McIntyre instead switched to LIU in March for financial reasons. His father, Bob, played outside linebacker for C.W. Post from 1986-88, and Collins said he was pleased to add “a talented son of a former player of ours.”
But that wasn’t the only draw for Collins. He said there was something about McIntyre’s confidence that he attributes to wrestling.
“His success on the football field as well as his success in the sport of wrestling, where you’re out there by yourself, that’s about as competitive as you can be,” Collins said.
That competitiveness helped McIntyre transition to not just college life, but a new position. An inside linebacker and fullback in high school, McIntyre shifted outside and never missed a beat. Collins said he could tell by McIntyre’s inquisitiveness that he’d be a fit for the position.
“It was a big adjustment I had to make, but you have to do what you have to do to be able to compete here,” McIntyre said.
Outside linebackers are a hybrid position at LIU. They aren’t just tasked with containing the run. McIntyre said he also practices with the defensive backs because his duties include playing man defense against slot receivers, among other pass-coverage responsibilities.
It’s a relatively complex scheme that Collins said requires a level of intelligence that McIntyre possesses.
“Our schemes defensively, you have to be a smart football player,” Collins said. “Going up a level, we’re not going to be able to sit there and line up in a vanilla set with vanilla coverages.”
McIntyre’s heady play and obvious athleticism have Collins excited for his future. He’s a role player now, but he’s being groomed for more.
Said Collins: “I envision him as a leader of his team as he gets older, no doubt.”