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Thread: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

  1. #1
    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    By Jim Thomas jthomas@post-dispatch.com

    Record crowd at Rams’ practice

    Beautiful weather and offseason acquisitions energize 2,297 fans at Rams Park. Read more

    It’s hard to believe now, but T.J. McDonald was a thin, some would say scrawny, youngster. Perhaps he had a little man’s complex because he was adept at turning youthful horseplay into — well — rough-housing.

    “I used to have a problem with being rough,” McDonald said. “I would just be playing around. But I’d get in trouble because somebody always ended up crying.”

    Somebody else, that is.

    “And of course, my dad had to handle me however he needed to do it,” McDonald said, laughing.

    The rough-house dynamic changed radically at McDonald’s first little league football game.

    “My first hit in football, I’ll never forget it,” McDonald said. “I hit somebody pretty hard, his helmet got all messed up. The kid was laying on the ground and started crying. I’m thinking, ‘Oh man, I’m about to get in trouble again.’ ”

    Instead, teammates started tapping his helmet in admiration, others patted him on the back. Instead of getting in trouble, he was praised. Right then and there, as a fifth-grader, McDonald fell in love with the game.

    Eleven years later, he’s a rookie strong safety for the Rams, working with the starting unit, and now far from scrawny at 6 feet 2, 219 pounds.

    Just getting to the football field took some effort because his father — six-time Pro Bowl safety Tim McDonald — didn’t want sons T.J. and Tevin playing the game.

    “I kinda wanted to keep them away from football,” said Tim, now the secondary coach for the New York Jets. “I wasn’t sure if I could stomach my kids playing. But it seemed like the less I talked about football, the more they wanted to talk about it. So eventually, they were gonna play.”

    T.J. remembers it well.

    “Dad, he’d always talk about that he had 10 surgeries,” T.J. said. “And how he’d kind of crackle walking around the house. He probably put a little extra on it so we wouldn’t want to play.”

    It took some subterfuge, but T.J. finally got on the football field. During fifth-grade football sign-ups at his elementary school, he signed his father’s name on the parent consent form. It was a clumsy attempt at forgery and team officials instantly realized T.J. had tried to pull a fast one. The result was good, however, because Tim finally relented and let his sons play football.

    With a twist.

    “I decided if they were going to play, the one thing I wanted to do was to not just teach ’em the game, but teach ’em how to protect themselves, teach ’em how to tackle, keep their head up and all those little things,” Tim said. “So I ended up coaching the Pop Warner team with them on it.”

    A COLLISION SPORT

    That coaching must have been good because the team didn’t lose a game in two years with Tim McDonald in charge. Not that there wasn’t some controversy as far as young T.J. — short for Tim Jr. — was concerned.

    “T.J. was always a guy who loved to run into people,” Tim said. “I got accused from a few opposing (teams’) parents that I was teaching him how to hurt people, because every game he was knocking somebody out.

    “It’s a contact sport and he was that guy. He had no fear at a young age. It scared me a little bit because he was willing to throw his body at and actually run through people.”

    That is pretty much how Tim approached things for 13 seasons with the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals and then the San Francisco *****, from 1987-99.

    McDonald had 40 career interceptions and won a Super Bowl with the ’Niners after the 1994 season.

    “T.J.’s dad in my opinion is probably one of the top 10 safeties all-time,” Rams secondary coach Chuck Cecil said. “His dad was a great player. I mean, a great player. I would say yes there are similarities, because Tim would actually come down and lay his hat on you.”

    Sounds familiar. They were similar in stature as well, because Tim was 6-2, 215 as a player.

    “I know that Tim was a smart player,” Cecil said. “And T.J. has that quality. He’s already shown that he’s a very intelligent football player.”

    Cecil was a contemporary of Tim McDonald, and a Pro Bowl safety himself in 1992 for Green Bay. They almost were teammates in 1993 — the first year of full-fledged free agency in the NFL. Cecil was a free agent after the ’92 season, but even coming off that Pro Bowl year the Packers had signed future Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White to a monster contract.

    “They paid Reggie, so they didn’t have anything left basically,” Cecil said. “So I wound up going to Arizona. Tim signed with San Francisco (leaving Arizona) three days before I signed with Arizona.”

    Cecil said the Cardinals planned to sign him regardless of whether McDonald stayed in Arizona or signed with the *****.

    In San Francisco in 1993, McDonald’s position coach was none other than rising coaching prospect Jeff Fisher.

    Like McDonald, Fisher had played at Southern California — albeit nearly a decade earlier.

    So like his father, T.J. was an all-American at Southern California, played his first NFL football in St. Louis and now finds himself being coached by Fisher.

    (Tim’s first NFL season, 1987, was the Big Red’s last season in St. Louis before the franchise moved to the Phoenix area.)

    “It’s just the weirdest thing, isn’t it?” Tim asked. “He starts his career where I started my career — in the same city. It’s a pretty good deal. He’s excited and I’m excited for him.”

    T.J. never has backed down from the expectations and pressures that come with having a famous football father, pressures that intensified once he arrived at USC.

    “People expected me to be good,” T.J. said. “But for me, that wasn’t new to me. I had the same name as him — Tim McDonald, Jr. That’s something I can’t hide from, so I just embrace it. For me to go to USC, my dad was a captain. I was a captain. He was All-American. I was All-American in college.”

    ON TO THE NFL

    After a standout 2011 season, by all accounts McDonald’s play fell off as a senior at Southern Cal.

    “It was hard to evaluate him because his senior year he was very hot and cold,” Cecil said. “I think that was one of the reasons that he kind of fell — that we were able to get him in the third round — because it scared some people off.

    “But when you watched the Senior Bowl and you watched some of his junior (year) games, it was like the guy can do it all. It was just, ‘Does he want to?’ Or, ‘Can you get it out of him?’”

    During his pre-draft visit to Rams Park, McDonald made a very good impression, enough so that the team drafted him No. 71 overall.

    “He’s got all the tools to play the position at this level and play it very, very well,” Fisher said. “We’re especially impressed with his instincts and his football intelligence. He’s making calls like veterans make calls in the secondary.”

    T.J. credits his father helping develop that football IQ. Besides serving as his little league coach, Tim also coached T.J. at Edison High in Fresno, Calif. When T.J. was at Southern Cal, they used to watch game film together on Skype.

    “He taught me how to watch film, taught me how to be a student of the game,” T.J. said. “He taught me how to see pieces of the puzzle, and that’s something that I pride myself on. It kind of sets me above the curve I feel like when I’m watching film or learning the game.”

    Every bit of knowledge helps in the NFL, especially as a rookie playing safety.

    “At safety, you go the wrong way, or you make the wrong read, or your eyes aren’t where they’re supposed to be, a lot of times that turns into six (points),” Cecil said. “So that’s the challenge, really, to try and get him up to speed as fast as possible. And to show him as many things as he’s gonna see during the season.”

    Given the complexities of the NFL game, there’s no way McDonald can be shown everything or get schooled on everything before the regular-season opener, Sept. 8 against his father’s former team — Arizona.

    “So the big generalization there is just give him certain guidelines and things to go by, and then let his natural football instincts take over,” Cecil said.

    Big expectations

    The proud father thinks T.J. has plenty of instincts and plenty of talent to make it at this level.

    “I think he’ll be a great pro,” Tim said. “I’ve always felt he could be a great pro just because of his understanding of the game and his willingness to work.”

    Over T.J.’s last couple of years in college, the question to him from his father was: Do you want an NFL experience, or do you want an NFL career?

    “His answer’s always been, I’m willing to do and pay whatever price I need to pay, because I want an NFL career,” Tim said.

    And here we go.
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  2. #2
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    Re: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    I don't know what happened his senior season as to why he fell off the face of the earth but I'll assume the 2012 USC football team underachieved as a whole. We should see a younger, more athletic Mikell in him. QBs are going to have their reads disrupted whether him or Ogletree will drop back into coverage or blitz.

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  3. #3
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    Re: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    Interesting article. Thanks for posting Maui. Let's hope we have another in a line of great safeties from USC because aside from his Dad and Jeff Fisher there is Ronnie Lott and Troy Polamalu. I'm praying that he will not replicate Taylor Mays. My sense tells me Jeff Fisher would know that before he drafted him.

    Go Rams!

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    Re: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    just seemed like the defensive back coaches weren't doing their jobs all that well...that's why they're gone...

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    Re: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    Quote Originally Posted by mde8352gorams View Post
    Interesting article. Thanks for posting Maui. Let's hope we have another in a line of great safeties from USC because aside from his Dad and Jeff Fisher there is Ronnie Lott and Troy Polamalu. I'm praying that he will not replicate Taylor Mays. My sense tells me Jeff Fisher would know that before he drafted him.

    Go Rams!
    tj can sure hit like taylor mays...but he DOES have ball hawking skills he used more often, if he gets taught right (he will of course) he'll be a ball hawking machine, he's got the physical attributes to do so, but he's not as obsessed with the big hit as taylor mays was

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    Re: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    I cannot be the only one who when reading this threads title sang the tailspin theme song. If I am then we need a few more of my generation in this forum, but regardless great article and that's the bottom line cause Stone Cold says so.
    citr92 likes this.

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    Re: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    Quote Originally Posted by Stone Cold Tavon Austin View Post
    I cannot be the only one who when reading this threads title sang the tailspin theme song. If I am then we need a few more of my generation in this forum, but regardless great article and that's the bottom line cause Stone Cold says so.
    Is Tailspin a group or a movie? (You said theme song)

    Let's hope the apple fell as close to the tree as the article is implying.
    RnD

    GO RAMS!!

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    Re: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    Thanks for Sharing Maui, seems we got a couple guys in TJ & Ogletree that should be really good players for us for a long time to come. Both seem on the fast track to be starters and ahead of the typical learning curve for rooks! Thanks to Fisher and their college and parental developement! This team is shaping up to be a real juggernaught for years to come if the pieces meld and come together as they appear to be...
    So excited for us fans and these players.
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  9. #9
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    Re: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    TV Show from the 90's.....it was made by disney and if you do not know early 90'2 disney theme songs "YOU CAN JUST GIIIIT OOUUUTTTT" and that's the bottom line cause Stone Cold says so
    Last edited by Stone Cold Tavon Austin; -07-29-2013 at 01:12 PM.
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    Re: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    After a standout 2011 season, by all accounts McDonald’s play fell off as a senior at Southern Cal.

    “It was hard to evaluate him because his senior year he was very hot and cold,” Cecil said. “I think that was one of the reasons that he kind of fell — that we were able to get him in the third round — because it scared some people off.

    “But when you watched the Senior Bowl and you watched some of his junior (year) games, it was like the guy can do it all. It was just, ‘Does he want to?’ Or, ‘Can you get it out of him?’”
    It might be nitpicky to pull this out of an otherwise positive article, but I have to admit, this makes it sound like TJ's issue is motivational, which always gives me a bad feeling. The success stories in the NFL are rarely ones where guys have trouble finding the motivation to be great.
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    Re: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    Quote Originally Posted by Stone Cold Tavon Austin View Post
    TV Show from the 90's.....it was made by disney and if you do not know early 90'2 disney theme songs "YOU CAN JUST GIIIIT OOUUUTTTT" and that's the bottom line cause Stone Cold says so
    I 'member!

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    Re: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    It might be nitpicky to pull this out of an otherwise positive article, but I have to admit, this makes it sound like TJ's issue is motivational, which always gives me a bad feeling. The success stories in the NFL are rarely ones where guys have trouble finding the motivation to be great.
    Hopefully (and I trust this is the case), the non-motivation factor implied here about TJ was due to a youth immaturity - insecurity and/or his father's initial inclination to keep his son away from football, let alone go pro.

    Now, however, I would think that TJ has his mind made up with full support and excitement from his family, and of course, from coaches and mentors.


    For most rookies, not all, it must be an awe inspiring feeling to step into the NFL for the first time and contemplate the enormity of it all, present and future.


    All the best to this young man.
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    Re: Like father, like son: The McDonalds at safety

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    It might be nitpicky to pull this out of an otherwise positive article, but I have to admit, this makes it sound like TJ's issue is motivational, which always gives me a bad feeling. The success stories in the NFL are rarely ones where guys have trouble finding the motivation to be great.
    I too had to pause a bit when I read this. But I do have faith that our current coaching staff can 'get it out of him'.


    gap
    .

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