For the past two years, Valley Center High Hall of Fame inductee Michael McInerny has felt as if he’s been in a sort of purgatory. Undermined and hampered by surgery to both knees, the 6’3”, 192-pound multi-sport star has been unable to participate either on the field, the court or on the track.
As a result, his college career has yet to get started. It’s been held hostage, residing in a type of limbo that has left McInerny frustrated, a bit anxious and perhaps wondering if he can ever recapture his former glory. Being stuck on the sidelines doesn’t sit well with this extremely gifted and uber competitive 20-year-old. Inactivity is his bane. Being in the fray is where he finds his greatest joy.
Sports carry great meaning in Mc- Inerny’s life. It’s what provides him with direction, purpose and motivation. Having had to do without it, on a competitive basis, has been difficult to endure. It’s as if a huge part of himself has been stripped away. Being unable to participate has been a genuine cross for McInerny to bare.
When he talks about athletics, his words drip with passion and fervor. He can even get a bit emotional when discussing not having this needed outlet available to him. “I’ve missed it a lot, not being able to compete,” he says when detailing his recent trials. “It hurts when you’re physically unable to do what you’ve done before. Truthfully, it can be crushing.”
But perhaps the long wait is over. Presently enrolled at Palomar College, it is McInerny’s heartfelt hope that come fall, he’ll be back in action; first as a footballer and then perhaps, transitioning over to basketball.
Even though by his own admission, he’s currently operating at only 75% capacity, McInerny is seeing encouraging improvement in areas such as his flexibility, overall strength, conditioning and most importantly, his repaired knees. There are still some physical issues to iron out but overall, the prospects are promising that the darkhaired youngster of Irish-Mexican descent will soon find himself back in the fold. Back to where he belongs. Back to where he feels most comfortable. Back to what he considers to be his real home, that being any venue where an athletic competition is being waged.
The unexpected odyssey that McInerny has been forced to travel couldn’t have been foreseen when he left Valley Center High as one of the school’s most acclaimed and accomplished athletes. Few Jaguars, if any, had done it better and in so many ways, as had McInerny. His senior year of 2012-13 was a thing of which dreams are made.
In football, he was absolutely scintillating in his role as dynamic wideout and reliable kicker. By season’s end, McInerny had hauled in a county best 85 receptions which translated into 1,444 yards and 11 touchdowns. His kicking was also quite noteworthy, having knocked through his share of clutch field goals and often drilling kickoffs that resulted in touchbacks.
The number of awards that he amassed was astounding. Among the more impressive was being named Valley League Offensive Player and Kicker of the Year, being tabbed second team All CIF and garnering team MVP honors.
Watching McInerny snare passes was something to behold. He was graceful, showed great ball awareness and continually outleapt and outmuscled overmatched defensive backs. “I was able to put my height and my ability to create separation to good use,” he explains of his stellar receiving skills. “I was also consistent with my hands. I think I may have dropped just three or four passes all year long.”
Having left a sizeable imprint on the gridiron, McInerny next turned his attention to the courts as VC’s primary point guard. There his impact was keenly felt. Displaying a nonpareil versatility, he led the Jags in rebounds, assists and steals, a trifecta rarely accomplished at any level. McInerny’s outstanding vision made him a superb passer. His uncanny sense of anticipation made him a force on the glass. And his lightning quick hands were the conduits that enabled him to pile up a passel of thefts. He was also a heart and hustle guy who emitted a palpable presence. His value was adjudged to be so vital, he was designated team MVP.
What came next during the following spring was inarguably the most unexpected of Michael’s growing list of exploits. Having never run track before, he elected to give it a go. “I just thought let’s see if I have the ability to do this,” he says. Did he ever!
In addition to being a key component on the Jags’ 4×400 relay, McInerny proved to be a stunning revelation in the 400-meter run. It was there that he amazed many by becoming the CIF Division II Champion in that taxing event. McInerny has a simple explanation for his 400 success. “In those last 100 meters when almost everyone else either dies or slows down,” Michael shares, “I used my kick and all my heart to push through that critical part of the race.” For the third time in the school calendar year, a mind-blowing achievement, McInerny was again chosen as a team MVP, this time in the unlikely sport of track.
Leaving VC having attained legendary status, McInerny’s immediate future appeared unlimited, with no detours in sight. Everything seemed to suggest it was full speed ahead.
After mulling over his options which included interest from six other schools including San Diego State, McInerny settled on the University of San Diego because of its proximity to home, sterling academic reputation and the fact that he was able to secure some financial assistance/aid.
Early in the Toreros preseason football camp, Michael was doing quite well, moving up the depth chart and creating some buzz. He was told early on that he would make the traveling squad. But as workouts continued, he began limping which diminished his lateral movement and speed. Eventually, he had his right knee examined and a subsequent MRI revealed a meniscus tear. Surgery was required and before it had even begun, McInerny’s freshman year was done. He was forced to redshirt.
Those days immediately after the surgery were challenging ones for Michael. Saddled with crutches and braces, unable to comfortably get around, he often hunkered down in his on-campus residence, alone with his thoughts and disappointment.
But by the following spring, he had sufficiently recovered and was looking forward to the upcoming football season of 2014. But more bad luck was lurking just around the corner. While attempting a header in a club soccer match, he landed awkwardly, his left knee buckling. When it persisted in giving him problems well after the initial injury, he had it looked at and a quarter sized cyst was discovered. Another surgical procedure was deemed necessary and as a result, he would miss out on yet another football season. Because of his unavailability and due to the fact that USD was raising its tuition, Mc- Inerny saw the writing on the wall and opted to leave the school.
And that’s how he finds himself at Palomar today. McInerny has consulted with the coaches in both football and bball and it is said that they are excited and thoroughly intrigued about the prospect of having him aboard.
Having been absent from athletic completion for nearly two years, means that McInerny’s body isn’t at the optimum that it was when he was dominating at VC. But he’s working hard to hone his physique and regain a high level of fitness and conditioning. Presently, he’s undergoing a challenging workout regimen that includes lots of swimming and lifting. And though there are still some residual issues with his knees, they are coming along.
When listening to McInerny, his fierce determination to return to athletic prominence is readily apparent. He is driven to succeed, to stage a resounding comeback and carve out a name for himself on the collegiate landscape. He talks about how he won’t give up or let down until he’s made it all the way back, until he returns to what he once was, a sports standout who treated the fans to some memorable acts of derring-do. “I won’t quit until I do something special again,” he vows. It really doesn’t matter where it happens or even in what sport it occurs. A possible return to track has even been mentioned.
McInerny’s remarkable career at VC amounted to chapter one of his compelling story. The injuries, the setbacks and the disappointments comprised what came next. Now, the climb back and the reestablishment of his brand awaits. McInerny states with certitude that he’ll be heard from again. The earnestness that leaps out from his brown eyes convinces the onlooker that Michael will, indeed, experience a revival. Listening to him leaves absolutely no doubt.
McInerny feels as if he’s on a mission to prove he can return to elite status and perhaps do so in multiple sports. Don’t be at all surprised that in the near future, he does exactly that. Mission accomplished is right up Mc- Inerny’s alley.