Like a hurricane, Liam McIntyre enjoys making waves.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Westhampton senior is one of Long Island’s premier players, crashing into offenses from his linebacker position and flattening defenders from the fullback position.
On the field, he’s in there making the waves. Off the field, he’s fixated on a different ebb and flow as he heads to beaches between Quogue and Westhampton to catch the other kind of waves.
This is what the All-Long Island middle linebacker does during the summer. His love for the ocean is matched only by his passion for contact sports.
McIntyre, a key player in the Hurricanes’ march to the Long Island Class III championship last fall, said the ocean is a cool getaway from the pressure of winning at a high level.
“It’s you and the water,” said McIntyre, who also won the Suffolk 182-pound wrestling title in February. “It’s you and the wave. You need to be mentally tough at all times. It’s like making an open-field tackle, it’s you and the runner. Or wrestling, where it’s you and the opponent.”
There are similarities between man versus nature and man versus man. McIntyre knows surfing is a big-time challenge and that waves can pummel a man.
“There is a physicality to surfing, and I like that,” McIntyre said. “You have to concentrate, or you’re done. It’s different than playing a high school sport. It’s you, the ocean and the unknown. You can’t control the ocean’s waters. But you can navigate them and respect their power. There’s nothing more beautiful than the beach and the ocean.”
Inside this mellow surfer is one tough dude.
He suffered a broken hand on the first play from scrimmage last season and returned to play six weeks ahead of schedule, sporting a mummified left hand.
“He’s a leader in every regard,” said Bryan Schaumloffel, Westhampton’s new head coach who served as offensive coordinator last season. “Liam inspired our team. He’s a different breed, a throwback linebacker/fullback with that old school mentality. We have to gear him down in practice. He wants to go full throttle all day, every day. He wants to light people up every play.”
McIntyre will have the honor of wearing number 12 this season. The significance of the number is not lost on him.
“I’ve worn number 34 for two years on varsity and it’s unreal to give up my number,” McIntyre said. “But number 12 is special.”
That number belonged to Westhampton alumnus Cory Hubbard, a three-sport athlete who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2015. “He represented everything good in a high school athlete from leadership qualities to positive attitude,” McIntyre said. “He was a role model.”
So, Schaumloffel said, is McIntyre.
“He’s a positive force and a leader,” the coach said.
As team leader, McIntyre has big shoes to fill. Gone is Dylan Laube, an electrifying halfback who set the Long Island record of 47 touchdowns as the ’Canes ran the table. He'll play for New Hampshire this season.
“Dylan refused to lose and was a one-in-a-million teammate,” McIntyre said. “He always told me you have to surround yourself with people on the same mission with the same passion and the same goals. We’re a small-town school, and everybody needs to buy into the program for us to be successful.”
Not much rattles McIntyre. Not even his encounter with a thresher shark this summer.
“We were out in the water and a thresher, about eight feet long, swam underneath our boards,” he said. “Everyone was still, no one panicked, and then we got out of the water.”
And did McIntyre and his friends go home? Not a chance.
“The current was taking the shark away from us and the surfing was great. We were clear. We waited 20 minutes and went back in the water,” he said. “A week earlier, we had a huge pod of dolphins swimming about 30 yards from us. It’s the ocean. It’s their home.”
So what does McIntyre fear?
“I have a fear of spiders,” he said. “Mom handles spiders at home.”
There are no spiders on Westhampton’s Suffolk III football schedule, just Sharks, Panthers, Eagles, Colts, Redmen, Bucs, Tornadoes and Golden Flashes.
They’d better watch out. There’s a Hurricane warning in effect.
“It’s you and the water. It’s you and the wave. You need to be mentally tough at all times. It’s like making an open-field tackle, it’s you and the runner.”
— Surfer/linebacker Liam McIntyre