By: Asia Williams
It is very common to hear about athletes chasing the American football dream, however junior John McDonald’s dedication to the sport is like no other. Growing up in many different sides of Houston such as Memorial, South Park, Sunnyside, and Third Ward, McDonald has been chasing his own football dream for the past 14 years and continues to do so at Lamar High School. Starting as early as the age of three, he was highly inspired by his older brother. “He is a good inspiration when training together. We would work feet in the field to train mobility,” McDonald stated. He mentioned that growing up with an older sibling who played the same sport was never difficult. Even though they both played different positions at the time, he always found it as fun motivation.
Not only did McDonald and his older brother play together, football always ran in the family. McDonald’s father played football with his brothers as well, and they all played with their father in their time. McDonald’s cousins on his dad’s side also played for a while. In his younger years, McDonald played football outside of school on a little league team called American Youth Football. He was placed on the 3rd Ward 49ers team where he played until middle school and then switched to a different league team, Texas Youth Football Association. Here, he played for the Southside Jr. Marlins. McDonald described playing for these teams as having a second and bigger family. “We are always connected in a bond that felt deeper than blood.”
However, playing for this second family of his came to an end in his last year of middle school. In eighth grade, it was McDonald’s first year playing football for a school team at Crispus Attucks Middle School. Not only was it his first year playing school football, but he was also selected for an all-star team. He played for both the 713 Cardinals and the South Houston All Stars. Since he already had previous experience playing football, he found middle school football very easy. This allowed his skills to stand out to recruiters at football games. In between the time of eighth grade and his first year of high school, he continued to train and workout in his downtime with his older brother who currently plays football at Texas State University as a running back.
McDonald’s excellent football performances drew attention his way. High school recruiters gave him the opportunity to join Lamar High School’s football team after watching him play throughout his eighth-grade year. Playing JV football his freshman year, he still found it easy. Though compared to middle school football, the teamwork aspect changed dramatically in high school. His feelings about the difficulty flipped when he got accepted onto varsity soon after. He described varsity as a whole different world compared to JV. “Varsity is a ruthless level, unlike freshman and middle school where coaches try to get everyone in,” he said. “Varsity is where only the best and second best play. Nothing more.”
It wasn’t until his sophomore year when he decided to start playing rugby while still pursuing football. McDonald’s recent choice of playing rugby was a shock to his family, but they support him in rugby just as much as they support him in football. He chose to play rugby because it was very similar to football, and he felt like trying something new. He has been training hard to get better in rugby by attending rugby camps. So far, he has attended Rugby Saber Cats U18 and continues to extend his rugby journey.
McDonald mostly looks up to his teammates around him and his positioner coordinator. He believes that football and rugby can instill patience, discipline, and commitment. “At the end of the day, it comes down to the player. It’s about what we individually take from the game and use later in life.” He plans on continuing his defensive tackle position in football along with his rugby career while pursuing an education in electrical engineering. He currently still plays football for Lamar High School as a defensive