Credit the Detroit Lions offense for helping to upgrade the Highland Park defense this year.
Perhaps that’s overstating things a little, but in the case of senior linebacker Michael Linehan, the connection is quite relevant.
He’s the son of Scott Linehan, the longtime NFL coach who is now the passing-game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. He was previously the offensive coordinator for the Lions for five seasons, where he had a close relationship with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, a former Highland Park standout.
When Scott Linehan left Detroit for Dallas after last season, Stafford had a relocation suggestion. He thought Michael might be a good fit with the Scots. He was right.
Michael said he’s felt at home since coming to Highland Park after spending the past three years playing for St. Mary’s Preparatory School in suburban Detroit.
“It’s such a great program with such great tradition,” he said of HP. “The guys here are great. They’ve done a good job of including me.”
Michael’s play has included itself on a defense that generally lacks varsity experience entering this season, which is HP’s first at the Class 6A level. Among his biggest plays was a fumble recovery during a 54-0 win over Prosper on Sept. 12.
“It’s been an adjustment for him, but he’s been a very important part of our defense,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “We were looking for an inside linebacker because we lost two really good ones last year. Michael has been around it all his life and knows what it takes to be successful.”
As the son of an NFL coach, he’s familiar with adjusting to new surroundings. Michael was born in Washington, when his father was a college assistant there. The family has since moved to Louisville, Minneapolis, Miami, St. Louis, Detroit, and now Dallas.
“We’ve always been pretty flexible when it comes to moving. We’re used to it by now,” Michael said. “You certainly meet new people that way.”
Michael helped St. Mary’s reach a state championship game in Michigan in 2012, when his older brother, Matt, was the quarterback. Matt is now a redshirt freshman quarterback at the University of Idaho, where his father and two uncles also played.
The Vandals have likewise offered a scholarship to Michael, who might continue the family legacy. His younger brother, Marcus, is an eighth grader at Highland Park Middle School who also plays football.
Although his father has been primarily an offensive coach throughout his career, Michael has remained on the defensive side of the ball. He said it’s because he’s too big to be a quarterback.
“I like hitting people,” he said. “I was always a pretty big kid.”
During his senior year, Michael hopes to get a second chance in a different state at the state title that barely eluded him two years ago.
“Texas high school football has a reputation. It’s just a different style. If anything, it has more speed,” Michael said. “I think we’re coming together pretty well.”
Linehan and the Scots will play Richardson Pearce tonight at Highlander Stadium. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.