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Anthony McDonald, son of USC alumnus, has no regrets choosing Notre Dame

Vicky Jacobsen | Thursday, November 17, 2011

For many former USC players, watching a son choose to play for the Irish would be cause for deep shame. For senior linebacker Anthony McDonald’s father, Mike, Notre Dame was the lesser of two evils.

“I was being recruited by UCLA also, and [my father] said that if I would have gone there that he would have disowned me because USC just hates UCLA, but they respect Notre Dame,” McDonald said. “At first he wasn’t too happy with me being here, but he ended up telling me that he’s always respected Notre Dame. But he still gets a lot of [heat] from his buddies.”

Notre Dame and USC may be one of the nation’s most storied rivalries, but McDonald said his father’s choice of school has not caused any unpleasantness even though one of his roommates, senior center Mike Golic, Jr., is the son of one of Notre Dame’s most visible football alumni, Mike Golic, Sr.

“[McDonald’s father and Mike Golic, Sr.] get along fine; they never really argue about it because my dad knows when he comes out here it’s Notre Dame territory, so there’s not much he can say,” McDonald said. “I’m sure if it was the opposite, and [if] they were out at Southern Cal it would be a little different.”

One of McDonald’s other roommates is senior quarterback Dayne Crist, a fellow California-native and former high school classmate.

“We actually played against each other in Pop Warner when we were eight years old, and then we were kind of the big guys on the teams, so we kind of knew each other ever since then,” McDonald said. “We started going to school together, and we’ve been great friends ever since.”

While McDonald is very close with his teammates, especially those in his recruiting class, he did not limit his social circle to the football team.

“I still live with my roommate from freshman year,” McDonald said. “His name is Tomás Kenney. Freshman summer, Dayne and I were roommates because we were there for the summer and they put the football players together. Dayne and I found our roommates on Facebook and we were like ‘Oh God, how is this guy going to be?’ Me and my roommate hit it off, and we’ve been best friends ever since, so I’ve had a great time with him and we still live together.”

McDonald said that his friendship with Kenney gave him a lot of respect for non-athletes.

“A lot of us football players talk about regular students: ‘They have so much free time, what are they doing with their lives here?’ But I’ve just been really impressed by how much work he puts into school. Sometimes he’ll get back later than me because he’ll be studying all day, so just seeing his work ethic and how much he cares about school — he’s been a really influential person.”

Not every surprise was as positive as his freshman roommate, namely South Bend winters.

“I remember the first day when it started snowing freshman year, I ran outside with a couple of the other guys from California and we were like, ‘Oh, this is so cool,’ because we’d never seen snow fall before … And then it snowed for six months straight,” McDonald said. “Freshman year I tore my ACL, so I had to crutch around in the snow. I remember the first day after surgery I was crutching and I slipped and I thought, ‘Oh God, I’m going to have to put up with this for the next four years.'”

McDonald’s injuries did not end with the torn ACL. During his sophomore year, he was blindsided by a member of the Washington special teams, leaving him concussed and unsure of which way to run. (The play became an instant You Tube hit when he got to his feet and took off for the wrong end zone.) During his junior year, he was again limited by a knee injury.

“It’s hard having an injury.” McDonald said. “Any time you get injured, it’s hard to go through the process of sitting out, but I always think back to what my dad told me: ‘It’s a tough sport for tough players.’ If you’re not tough, you shouldn’t be playing this game, so you fight through it, you come back and you learn from your injuries and you get better.”

After sitting out all of his freshman year, McDonald has seen game action in each of the last three seasons. One of the highlights of McDonald’s career came last season in the Sun Bowl, when he played most of the second half in place of an injured Manti Te’o.

“The Sun Bowl was a little different because it was freezing,” McDonald said. “I came in after half and hadn’t been doing anything, so I was kind of cold and really stiff because I hadn’t been in the game, but I it was a great atmosphere and the fans that were there got everyone really energized.”

McDonald’s signature play came against Michigan State during his junior year.

“It was third-and-short and I ran and jumped over the pile and tackled the quarterback for no gain,” McDonald said. “They ended up converting the fourth down, but I don’t like to tell people that part.”

While there’s nothing like the adrenaline that comes on game day, McDonald said that he’ll most miss the camaraderie of his classmates after graduation.

“Our whole class is a really tight-knit group and we’ve been together for four years-plus now. Obviously we’re all going to be separated at some point,” McDonald said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll keep in touch with most of the guys that I’m really close with, but it’s not going to be the same because we’re not going to see each other every day and be out there shedding blood, sweat and tears with each other every day.”