McDonald seeks new start in Cheney after being dismissed as a Bruin
By Josh Friesen
The Eagles have another ball-hawk defender to bolster an already talented array of defensive backs.
Tevin McDonald, a free safety recently dismissed from the UCLA football program for violating team policies, has made the 1,100 mile journey from Los Angeles to Cheney to play football at Eastern. According to the Los Angeles Times, McDonald was released after failing a third drug test.
According to McDonald, he is ready to make the best of his second chance, this time as an Eagle. He is excited for a fresh start.
“I’m putting that behind me,” McDonald said. “I’d call it an experience that has taught me a lot about myself, about the people around me, … [and] it will definitely be something that I grow from.”
McDonald, a redshirt junior, appeared in 14 games for the Bruins as a redshirt freshman in 2011, where he tied for ninth in the Pac-12 Conference in passes defended. In UCLA’s game against Cal, McDonald tied the school record with three interceptions in one game. He started the first 13 games of the 2012 season as a Bruin, where he ranked third on the team in tackles with 79. He was unable to travel with the team for their Holiday Bowl appearance due to his violation.
Head coach Beau Baldwin acknowledged that McDonald made some mistakes at UCLA and has had to pay the consequences.
“I won’t sugarcoat that,” Baldwin said. “But you get into the details of who he was growing up, … and you find out about the person outside of the mistakes.”
According to Baldwin, he and his coaching staff did extensive research, not only on McDonald’s play on the field, but his attributes as a person. Baldwin said that if he had not been impressed with the way McDonald has learned from his miscues, the coach would not have pursued the young free safety.
The caliber of McDonald’s character beyond his lapses in judgement was what made Baldwin comfortable acquiring him.
“As you got to know him and have conversations with him and have him up here to campus you’re like, ‘Man,’” Baldwin said. “He’s got so much going for him. … He’s just got to understand that, ‘OK, [I have] made some mistakes. I got to work past these now.’
“This is a second chance, and probably in his mind the last chance,” Baldwin said.
Aside from the personal traits that Baldwin believes make McDonald a great addition to Eastern’s football team, the 5-feet-10-inch free safety also possesses the talent to succeed on the field. McDonald has been a consistent playmaker not only in the Pac-12 but in high school as well. He was recruited heavily out of Edison High School in Fresno, Calif., and was recognized as one of the best defensive backs in the country.
“He didn’t just have success against some teams. He had success against the best of the best in the Pac-12,” Baldwin said. “You just see a guy with some definite ability.”
While Baldwin liked what he saw on film, it was McDonald’s football acuity that really caught the attention of the Eastern head coach.
“You can tell he grew up around football,” Baldwin said. “He knows the game. He loves the game. He understands the game.”
McDonald’s knowledge of football can be attributed to his upbringing. He came from a family of football players. His father, Tim, was drafted in the second round of the 1987 NFL Draft to the Arizona Cardinals, helped the San Fransisco 49ers win Super Bowl XXIX and was a six-time Pro Bowler. His brother, T.J., was an All-American safety at USC in 2012.
Though McDonald has played well against some of the toughest opponents at the highest level of collegiate football, he still feels as though he has not earned anything yet. He is eager to earn a spot at the top of the depth chart before Eastern’s first game of the 2013 season at Oregon State on Aug. 31, a team he registered nine tackles and a fumble recovery against.
“I expect to compete just like everywhere else,” McDonald said. “I’m going to come here and compete for a job like I did when I was at UCLA.”
Already in spring classes, McDonald has begun to enjoy the Inland Northwest. During his tour, he appreciated the small-town atmosphere, a divergence from the bright lights and media blitz of southern California. More than anything, McDonald felt Eastern was a place he could call home. He is excited at the prospect of playing for a championship-caliber team.
“I’m planning to make the most of it. [I am] looking to help the team out, get back on the right path, and get back to a position where I get reach my goals,” McDonald said. “I’m fired up about being here.”