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  • McDonald makes his presence felt

    McDonald makes his presence felt
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Although Sacramento Kings guard Mike Bibby, a former All-American at Arizona and the No. 2 overall selection in the 1998 NBA draft, is his cousin and confidant, Shaun McDonald figured out long ago that basketball wasn't his sport.

    "I quit in eighth grade," he explained. "I kind of knew I wasn't going to be too tall, so I had to give that dream up real fast."

    But McDonald is making a nice living as a professional athlete: He is in his second season as a wide receiver and punt returner with the Rams. Over the last two games, he has been a key factor in victories at San Francisco and Seattle.

    McDonald's first NFL touchdown reception, on a 6-yard pass from quarterback Marc Bulger, put the Rams up 14-0 in the first quarter against the ***** at Monster Park. Bibby attended the game, won by the Rams 24-14, but he missed the TD catch.

    "He got out of practice too late," McDonald said. "But it was great to see him."

    McDonald made three big plays Sunday, when the Rams rallied past the Seahawks 33-27 in overtime:

    His 24-yard catch, on a third-and-8 play, took the team to the 8-yard line. Bulger hit tight end Brandon Manumaleuna for a touchdown on the next play that cut Seattle's lead to 27-17 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

    Three plays later, McDonald lugged a punt 39 yards to the Seahawks 41-yard line. On the next snap, Bulger found wideout Kevin Curtis in the end zone, and it was 27-24 with 3:30 to go.

    On the first series after Jeff Wilkins' 36-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining forced overtime, Bulger spotted McDonald sprinting down the right size on a "hot" read in reaction to a Seahawks blitz. The pass hit McDonald on the fingertips, and the 52-yard TD ended the proceedings.

    "Any time the ball's in the air, I think it's mine, I think I'm going to get it no matter what," he said. "The whole time, I was thinking, 'touchdown.' .. As a competitor, you want the game on the line and you want to be able to contribute to the play that wins it."

    McDonald, a fourth-round draft pick last year, is listed at 5 feet 10, but he acknowledged that he's at least an inch shorter. He said he weighs 180 pounds -but probably only after a heavy meal.

    "My whole life, people have been saying I'm too small to play football," said McDonald, a Phoenix native. "So it's something I'm used to. It doesn't really bother me anymore. I think it's about how big you play, and not about your size."

    At Arizona State, McDonald's 2,993 receiving yards fell just 126 short of John Jefferson's school record. But largely because of a thumb injury that limited him to eight games, McDonald's impact last year as a rookie was only 10 catches for 62 yards, with a long gain of 13.

    Coach Mike Martz said McDonald also needed time to adjust to the Rams' high-speed practice sessions.

    "To come in and learn to practice the way our guys practice is hard on a receiver, the tempo and the conditioning that's required to practice like that," Martz said. "I think he understands now, being in the games, why that's the way it is: so at the end of the game, you still have your speed."

    McDonald, whose 40-yard dash time coming out of college was listed at 4.51, had plenty of speed left to blow past Seahawks safety Terreal Bierria, who desperately tried to latch onto McDonald's jersey, on the final play Sunday.

    "The only thing with he and (Curtis) is just getting opportunities and building their confidence," veteran Isaac Bruce said. "That's the only thing. We always knew they could play. It's showing on the field on Sundays now."

    McDonald said playing behind Bruce and Torry Holt, arguably the top wideout tandem in the NFL, has accelerated his progress.

    "I think this is the best situation for me," he said, "because learning from two of the best in the league is going to help as far as my technique and my skills."

    In addition, McDonald gets to see their intangibles. McDonald said he immediately was impressed by "just how hard they go out and compete. They don't ever want to be shown up, whether it's practice or ... anything. That kind of gets in you."

    In turn, the emergence of McDonald and Curtis, the team's third-round pick last year, takes some defensive pressure off Bruce and Holt.

    "It means a lot for this team, not just for myself and Torry," Bruce said. "It gives us another dimension in special teams, too, with 'Mac' running back punts."

    McDonald's versatility extends even further: A standout soccer player as a youngster and a kicker and punter in high school, he would step in should Jeff Wilkins go down.

    "Only in an emergency," McDonald said, laughing.

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • Nick
    Secondary receivers make a primary contribution
    by Nick
    Secondary receivers make a primary contribution
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Oct. 10 2004

    SEATTLE - A week ago in San Francisco, second-year wideout Shaun McDonald
    caught his first NFL touchdown pass. On Sunday at Qwest Field, he caught his
    first game-winner.

    "If that happens every other week, I'll be happy," McDonald said in the raucous
    Rams locker room moments after their 33-27 overtime victory over the Seahawks.
    McDonald and quarterback Marc Bulger hooked up for a 52-yard touchdown 3
    minutes 2 seconds into the extra period that completed a staggering comeback.

    The Rams were trailing 27-10 before Bulger found tight end Brandon Manumaleuna
    for an 8-yard strike across the middle with 5:34 remaining in the fourth
    quarter. The fourth-year pro made the catch in heavy traffic for his first
    touchdown of the season. Then 2:04 later, Bulger connected with second-year
    wide receiver Kevin Curtis on a post pattern that produced a 41-yard score -
    Curtis' first TD of the year, too - and trimmed the Seattle edge to 27-24.

    After Jeff Wilkins forced OT with a 36-yard field goal, the Rams won the toss
    and were on the march again. On third and 8, the Seahawks blitzed and the Rams
    adjusted: McDonald streaked past safety Terreal Bierria and Bulger lofted the
    ball onto his fingertips.

    "It came up perfect," McDonald said. "Marc waited for me, and he put the ball
    right where it needed to be." Once the ball was in his hands, McDonald had just
    one thought. "It was, 'Get to the end zone,'" he said. "I know not too many
    people are going to be able to catch me once I get moving."

    Curtis, hobbled early in the season by shin splints, seemingly has taken over
    the No. 3 wideout spot from veteran Dane Looker. He's the team's fastest
    receiver, and he sprinted by Bierria and cornerback Ken Lucas to get open for
    his TD catch. "I had a feeling, for some reason, it was coming to me on that
    play," Curtis said. "I just tried to run as hard as I could and make a play for
    this team."

    Manumaleuna altered his route when he saw Bulger scramble to the left on a play
    that was designed to go to the right. "I just tried to mirror him, and he threw
    it up there for me. "Luckily, I made the play," Manumaleuna said. He said the
    score was vital for the Rams to "get a little momentum going. We were down in
    the red zone so many times, and just being able to get a touchdown was big."

    Wideouts Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are the unchallenged leaders among Rams
    pass-catchers: Together, they've hauled in 68 balls for 889 yards this year.
    -10-10-2004, 11:17 PM
  • RamWraith
    Practice makes perfect for Cleeland
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Jan. 08 2005

    SEATTLE - On Fridays, the Rams typically work on red-zone situations, and tight
    end Cam Cleeland typically is the star.

    "I think I lead the league in Friday practice touchdowns," he said.

    In games, though, Cleeland has been counted upon most as a blocker this year.
    Going into the Rams' first-round playoff contest at Qwest Field, Cleeland had
    recorded just seven catches for 57 yards - and no touchdowns - all season.

    But with just over 2 minutes remaining in the game, Saturday turned into Friday
    for Cleeland. Just as in practice, he snagged quarterback Marc Bulger's 17-yard
    toss over the middle in the end zone. This one counted, though, and it helped
    hand the Rams a 27-20 victory in front of 65,397.

    Bulger put the ball up high, which is exactly where the 6-foot-5, 270-pound
    Cleeland wants it.

    "With my height, I like to jump for the ball," he said. "That way it doesn't
    give the other guys a chance to knock it out."

    Quick-closing Seahawks free safety Ken Hamlin did his best; he drilled Cleeland
    a split-second after the ball arrived.

    "I didn't see anything except the ball," said Cleeland, a seven-year veteran.
    "I said, 'You'd better hang on to this sucker, because you know you're going to
    get hit.'

    "I think I took a pretty good hit; I can't really remember it. I just fell down
    and cradled it."

    The catch was especially pleasing for Cleeland because he grew up in the
    Seattle area, played his college ball at cross-town Washington and had spent
    his youth rooting for the hometown NFL team.

    "I grew up as an avid Seahawks fan, and I'll always be a Seahawks fan ...
    except when I'm playing them," he said. "It's good to finally get one in front
    of the family. It's just very surreal right now."

    While Cleeland had just the one reception, wideouts Torry Holt, Kevin Curtis,
    Isaac Bruce and Shaun McDonald continually harassed the Seahawks' secondary.
    Bulger passed for 313 yards, connecting with Holt six times for 108 yards and
    Curtis four times for 107.

    Bruce added three catches for 40 yards, and McDonald's lone grab went 31 yards
    into Seattle territory on the Rams' winning drive. McDonald lined up on the
    left side, shifted into the backfield, took a short toss from Bulger in stride
    and steamed down the right sideline.

    "We had that play in about the last four or five weeks, but I don't think we'd
    even run it in a game," McDonald said. "It came out just like Coach (Mike
    Martz) drew it up." ...
    -01-09-2005, 05:10 AM
  • RamDez
    Extra pounds are helping McDonald stay strong
    by RamDez
    Extra pounds are helping McDonald stay strong
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - Last winter, wide receiver Shaun McDonald was asked to report to Rams Park on March 1 - a full month before the start of the team's offseason conditioning program.

    It shortened his offseason, but helped his career.

    "It definitely helped me," McDonald said. "I'm glad I did it."

    McDonald used the extra time to do a lot of weightlifting and running. By design, he put on 10 pounds - "ballooning" all the way up to ... 182 pounds. What a horse.

    By midseason in 2003, his rookie season, McDonald had dipped into the 160s.

    "I want to try to be over 175 the whole year," McDonald said.

    The better to take the pounding from defensive backs after receptions, or throw the occasional downfield block. Last training camp, with wide receivers going down with injuries all around him, McDonald kept going and got worn down.

    This year, he's still getting a lot of work in camp, but he seems to be handling it better. He has had a few drops on the practice field. But McDonald appears to have his quickness and lateral movement back - qualities that got the Rams excited about drafting him in the fourth round last year despite his small stature.

    "I've got all that back," McDonald said. "I think I'm just in better shape. I'm trying to stay healthy this year and make it through the season."

    McDonald also is mentally fresher this year.

    "Mentally, I'm not as tired because I'm not thinking as much," he said. "I'm a lot more confident, just knowing what I'm doing out there. I'm not thinking as much as last year - I'm just going out there and trying to perform."

    McDonald began the '03 season as the Rams' No. 3 wide receiver. He caught six passes for 46 yards in the season opener against the New York Giants but suffered a thumb injury in that game that sidelined him for the next four weeks. After the layoff, McDonald was unable to work his way back up the depth chart. He caught only four more passes the rest of the season, playing in only seven of the final 11 games of the regular season.

    This season, McDonald faces a tough chore trying to break into the rotation at wide receiver. However, early indications are that he will get a chance to earn the punt returner's job, which could get him on the field on game day.

    "If I get back there, it's going to be fun to get the ball in my hands and try to make things happen," McDonald said.

    Randall jumps right in

    Newly signed offensive tackle Greg Randall reported to camp in decent shape and has made a good impression on coach Mike Martz in his first practices with the team.

    -08-09-2004, 03:07 PM
  • RamWraith
    The Graduate
    by RamWraith
    Sunday, July 30, 2006

    By Casey Brown

    Sometimes the ball is simply out of reach for Rams wide receiver Shaun McDonald. Maybe the pass was a little low or too high but there is always the next opportunity over the course of practice or in the game to make a true catch.

    McDonald came to terms recently with another opportunity over which he had more control. It was an object he had never wrapped his hands around but now it is in his possession: a college degree.

    McDonald declared himself eligible for the 2003 NFL Draft and left Arizona State University with just one semester remaining before graduation. That move added McDonald to the 46 percent of college football players that fail to graduate within six years of enrolling at their respective universities.

    Three years after being drafted by the Rams in the fourth round of the ’03 draft, McDonald was back in Tempe, not as a student-athlete…just a student.

    “I spent a lot of time in class while I was playing football there (Arizona State) and I only had a semester left, so I figured it would be a waste to let all that go and not go back for just one semester,” McDonald said. “Once I got the off-season schedule down, I decided to go back.”

    By staying in touch with Arizona State officials and with the help of Rams Player Development Coordinator Ray Ogas, McDonald now has a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.

    “He (Ray) helped me with what I needed to do to get into the program. He kept me in contact with the people who run the education program with the NFL,” McDonald said. “It was definitely worth it.”

    Ogas, in his seventh year with the Rams, has helped McDonald, Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk and Orlando Pace pursue their degrees.

    “Some guys will come in right away and say, ‘Ray, I don’t want to let it go and drift away from it (graduation),” Ogas said. “They’re pretty good about it. When you bring it to their attention, they say, ‘Hey, you know, I think I’m going to get this taken care of.’”

    The NFL player development department will reimburse players returning to school up to $15,000 per year for tuition costs.

    McDonald saw a significant increase in his grade point average following his return to the classroom. He credits an increased focus and a higher level of maturity for his 4.0 GPA in the last 12 hours of his undergraduate study.

    “I had more time to concentrate,” said McDonald, who had compiled a 2.57 GPA in his earlier stay at ASU. “I’ve definitely matured a lot since being in the league. I’m a lot older and I took it a lot more serious then when I was in school.”...
    -07-30-2006, 02:20 PM
  • RamWraith
    Anatomy of a Comeback
    by RamWraith
    Wednesday, January 5, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    In almost every great comeback in every major sport, the story is almost always the same. The situation, the result and especially the hero are usually the same.

    Take any great comeback the Denver Broncos ever had and quarterback John Elway was prominently involved. Same with San Francisco and Joe Montana and ditto for Dan Marino and the Dolphins.

    When the Rams found themselves down by 17 with 8:42 to go against Seattle on Oct. 10, any hope of a comeback appeared to rest squarely on the shoulders of the usual cast of characters. A long touchdown pass to receivers Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt or a scintillating play by running back Marshall Faulk would usually be in the offing.

    But the usual suspects were not the heroes, not on that day. Instead, young receivers Shaun McDonald and Kevin Curtis filled the roles of Bruce and Holt. Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna made the catch of his life. Quarterback Marc Bulger was the driving force, bouncing back from a rough three quarters and emerging as the kind of clutch player teams dream of having behind center.

    A 27-10 deficit turned into a stunning 33-27 win. It was the type of win that can turn a season that could have been ruined by a devastating loss to New Orleans two weeks prior into another division championship season. And this time, the story wasn’t written about the guys you would expect.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said many of his lesser-known players got a lesson in how to win big games on that day.

    “There were a lot of young players that learned how to compete, and stay in it,” Martz said. “We had some players show up in this game that made plays to help us win this game. Guys like McDonald, Curtis, of course Brandon with his touchdown catch.”

    The lesson learned that day by guys who before the game were role players went beyond any that could be gleaned in a film room.

    Seattle kicker Josh Brown booted a 34-yard field goal with 8:47 to play to give the Seahawks a 27-10 lead. At that point, any chance of a comeback for St. Louis seemed to sink away into Puget Sound. Instead, the Rams erupted like Mount St. Helens.

    On their ensuing possession, the Rams moved 66 yards on eight plays in 3:08 capped by Manumaleuna’s spectacular 8-yard touchdown catch in traffic. Kicker Jeff Wilkins’ extra point made it 27-17 with 5:43 left. It was a small glimmer of hope, but it was enough of an opening for St. Louis to take momentum.

    The defense earned a three and out, setting up a Seattle punt. The Rams took over on Seattle’s 41 after McDonald’s 39-yard punt return. St. Louis then connected on the quickest of quick strikes. Bulger threw a perfect, arcing spiral over the top of the Seahawks’ secondary to a streaking Curtis for a 41-yard touchdown. The one-play drive took all of seven...
    -01-05-2005, 12:56 PM