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Once a third-stringer at NCC, Tom McGinnis excels for the Kane County Chaos

Kane County Chaos receiver Tom McGinnis fights get out grasp Illinois Pirates defensive back Rasheed Waite during last Saturday’s game

Kane County Chaos receiver Tom McGinnis fights to get out of the grasp of Illinois Pirates defensive back Rasheed Waite during last Saturday’s game at Aurora Christian High School. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 29, 2011 2:20AM

When one plays four years of college football and never starts or puts up big numbers, those watching from afar might think that player would hang it up as soon as he graduates. Not Tom McGinnis.

At North Central College, McGinnis caught only four passes for 35 yards and one touchdown during his time there and also recorded nine tackles. Those numbers weren’t nearly enough to make him walk away from the game, so he went out for the newly formed Kane County Chaos, a semipro team in the Great Midwest Football league that plays its home games at Aurora Christian High School.

“It’s all been about dedication, strategy, hard work (and) keeping your mind to it on the go,” McGinnis said.

McGinnis didn’t have the full time of recovery normally allotted to football players. He last played in December, during which national champion UW-Whitewater knocked North Central out of the playoffs in a quarterfinal matchup. It only took until June 4 for him to suit up in the first game for the Chaos. McGinnis thinks that works in his favor.

“I believe I’m a lot more conditioned out here,” McGinnis said. “My season just literally ended.

“The competition in the CCIW is unbelievable. That’s really kind of prepared me for the competition to move forward in other leagues.”

That good conditioning has paid off. McGinnis achieved more success right off the bat when he doubled the number of his North Central career touchdowns in his first Chaos contest. He hasn’t looked back since. Most recently, in a 40-8 victory over the Illinois Pirates, he caught five passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns, including a 92-yard reception that resulted in six points.

“I take every game as high intensity, every practice with as much intensity as if I was going to play in a game,” McGinnis said.

With the success McGinnis has had, why didn’t he break out sooner? The reason may lie in the successful receivers North Central has fielded. While McGinnis was on the roster, Steve Hlavac became the top receiver in school history and others like Joe Antonacci racked up all-conference and all-region honors. Even more telling, the Cardinals’ depth chart has gone three-deep.

“North Central has really prepared me,” McGinnis said. “(For) some third-stringers, (at) any other college in the nation, they would be starters, so I believe that competition at North Central has prepared me to be a starter at the upper levels.”

This might only be the beginning for McGinnis. While playing for the Chaos is nice, he would like to climb higher. To make it to the NFL, he would have to go on a journeyman path like Kurt Warner and others. For now, he’s willing to explore where he could go when his time with the Chaos runs its course.

“Hopefully, this is a stepping stone to playing in the Canadian or Arena Football League,” McGinnis said. “But whatever comes from that, I’m just going to keep enjoying playing football and working hard at it.”

When he eventually takes off his uniform for the last time, McGinnis still doesn’t want to be finished with football. Continuing his life with the sport by acting as a coach or referee is not out of the question for him. If you looked up “passion” in the dictionary, you might find his picture.

“I’ve played this game half my life,” McGinnis said. “I can’t walk away from it.”

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