Most veterans are wary of showering praise onto their rookie counterparts. The NFL is a meritocracy, and words of admiration must be earned. First-year players aren't supposed to walk right in and feel like they own the place.
And yet, Joe Staley has not been shy about his adoration for San Francisco 49ers first-round pick Mike McGlinchey. That in and of itself speaks volumes about McGlinchey, both as a person and a player. The two have essentially been attached at the hip. In McGlinchey's first few months with the team, Staley has taken him to a Golden State Warriors playoff game, they teamed up in a game of Catch Phrase and they even sang karaoke together at a local bar.
When asked about his protégé on Wednesday, Staley cut off the question and quipped, "He's my best friend in the world." Staley's trademark humor got a laugh from the media on hand, but he quickly shifted his tone in order to adequately describe why he's so fond of McGlinchey.
"I just see so much potential in that kid," Staley raved. "He's got the absolute right mindset to succeed in the NFL. The guy is really, really hungry to learn every single day. He comes into meetings and asks the right questions. He's really smart and picks up the playbook really well."
San Francisco's 2017 rookie class saw more snaps than any other team's crop of first-year players. This year figures to be different for the 49ers. There aren't as many holes on the roster and rookies will have to beat out the veterans in front of them in order to play on Sundays. McGlinchey is the exception. The ninth-overall pick was penciled into the starting lineup the second San Francisco filled out his draft card on April 26.
As far as Staley is concerned, McGlinchey already looks the part and is up to the task of being a Day 1 starter.
"You saw him come in right away during OTAs and he was doing well," Staley added. "He's still making mistakes and has a long way to go – all that stuff – but I see all the potential that he has. He's got nothing but great things ahead of him in his career."
McGlinchey's career, at least at first, will mirror Staley's in several facets. Both were first-round picks and immediate starters. That makes Staley's wisdom an invaluable asset for McGlinchey. But their mentor/mentee relationship may come full circle when McGlinchey potentially supplants Staley at left tackle.
Most NFL veterans would sprint away from that suggestion like a long weekend with intrusive in-laws. However, Staley is embracing that potential passing of the torch.
View the top images from the 49ers back to school photo shoot as players arrived to training camp.
"I'm really excited to be able to have the opportunity to be a mentor to a younger guy and teach him the things that I've learned," Staley said. "Hopefully he can surpass me one day."
Kyle Shanahan was equally zealous about his new right tackle. The 49ers head coach was effusive in his praise of McGlinchey's performance during the offseason program.
"He was great," Shanahan said. "He was exactly what we thought he was – as advertised. Its like we said in the original press conference, he seems like a 10-year vet. He handles himself the right way. He battled throughout minicamp. … I was excited about OTAs, and I'm expecting him to get better throughout training camp."
Staley and Shanahan don't seem like guys who would frivolously throw out compliments to a rookie. So while there are sure to be bumps in the road for McGlinchey, all early signs are pointing to him being a longtime staple on San Francisco's offensive line. Staley appears set on making sure that is the case.