ONE LOOK at his Georgetown University football bio shows there's no doubt Robert McCabe made the correct sporting choice for college.
Sure, the 6-2, 234-pound senior linebacker out of Malvern Prep might have created occasional stirs as a pitcher, and he does admit to sometimes yearning for spots atop mounds. But football is his life and the experience is going quite nicely, thank you.
After moving from outside to inside in a 3-4 alignment, McCabe last fall broke Georgetown's season record for tackles, with 134 (12.2 per game). Now, coaches and media members have named him the preseason Defensive Player of the Year in the FCS (nee I-AA) Patriot League.
"It's definitely an honor," McCabe said Tuesday afternoon by telephone, shortly before practice. "Tons of credit has to go out to my teammates because this award was based on my successes from previous seasons, and all those guys were huge parts of it."
As McCabe mentioned, praise goes mainly to the defensive linemen because those guys take on the blockers. But someone has to be lurking right behind, and that guy's passion for rattling teeth has to be all-consuming or else the job doesn't quite get done.
Truth be told, Robert McCabe has never been a fan of guys toting footballs.
"I'm a competitive person," he said. "It's fun to be able to impose my will on someone else and keep him from doing what he's trying to do, whether that's getting a first down or a touchdown.
"And I love the big hits part. That really excites me. I was happy to move from the outside back to the inside, where I'd played as a freshman [in a 4-2-5] and in high school. The more action, the more comfortable I am."
McCabe grew up in, and still lives in, Newtown Square, Delaware County, and the family's home is right behind Marple Newtown High. Games of backyard football were plentiful. So were bruises.
"Actually, I always played against kids who were 3-4 years older," he said. "I'm sure that helped toughen me up."
At Malvern, McCabe served then-coach Gaspare "Gamp" Pellegrini at linebacker and wingback and his senior season, in 2008, produced a 10-0 record. The capper was an all-timer: Before 7,000-plus at Villanova Stadium, the Friars tumbled into a 21-0 hole against St. Joseph's Prep, then stormed to a 34-27 win. McCabe's contributions included five catches for 64 yards.
An outstanding student, McCabe was eyed by numerous Patriot/Ivy schools. Georgetown won his heart, easily, and visits to other schools were nixed. As was baseball.
"Football was always my favorite sport," McCabe said. "But the recruiting process in that was slower, which was why I was looking more toward baseball. Once the opportunity to play college football showed itself, especially at a place like this, I hopped all over it."
McCabe's career has produced 248 tackles, and even as a soph he ranked second on the squad with 84. And please don't think of him as being one-dimensional. His 2011 campaign featured a team-high four interceptions, as well. One was returned for a touchdown.
"I pride myself on being a smart player," he said. "Knowing different situations, and what the opposing offense is going to throw at us. One of my strengths is being able to read the quarterback and go make plays on the ball."
This summer, McCabe could mainly be found in Baltimore, serving a corporate banking internship with PNC Bank.
Most of his football workouts? They took place across the street from the Ravens' stadium.
Hmmmm . . .
"Pro football has always been a dream of mine," McCabe said. "If I stay healthy, and all goes well for us as a team, who knows, maybe an opportunity will arise."
If so, he'll tackle it.
Contact Ted Silary at email@example.com.
High school coverage online at www.philly.com/rally.