Govan, Glasgow born inside forward played junior football for Ibrox Roselea and joined Petershill in 1904, before joining Scottish League Falkirk in 1905, scoring on his Scottish League debut at Port Glasgow Athletic that August. His partnership with Jock Simpson helped produce one of Falkirk’s most successful periods in the club’s history, finishing as League runners up to Celtic in 1908 and 1910, and he was first selected for the Scottish League in March 1907 when he played against The Football League, playing against them a second time in March 1909. He won his only cap for Scotland when he played in a 1-0 defeat to Ireland at Windsor Park in March 1910.
He moved south to join First Division Oldham Athletic in June 1910, making his Football League debut at Aston Villa that September, before moving to Tottenham Hotspur in January 1911 after 10 appearances. He joined Newcastle United in April 1912 after 3 goals in 39 appearances, scoring 7 goals in 39 appearances before returning to Scotland to join Partick Thistle in the 1913 close season. He played for Midland League York City in 1914-15 and also appeared for Goole Town, before returning to play for Partick Thistle and Falkirk in 1916 and 1917. He appears to have played once as a wartime guest for Liverpool in 1918-19. In 1919 he joined East Fife, playing for Dumbarton in 1920, where he scored 3 goals in 22 appearances, East Stirlingshire in 1921 before finishing his career with a return to Dumbarton in 1922.
His younger brother Bob McTavish also played for Falkirk between 1906 and 1910, and moved to Tottenham Hotspur before Jock but played with him while there. Bob moved to Brentford, and he subsequently played for Third Lanark, re-joining Jock to play together at at York City, and Raith Rovers.