Oct. 3, 2012
By Aimee Dulebohn, Michigan State Athletic Communications Staff Assistant
When one looks upon an offensive line, a group of big burley men acting as a protective wall to the bounty of the quarterback, many think of strength and stability. However, many do not initially think about love and support. Yet that is how fifth-year senior and starting offensive guard Chris McDonald best describes his unit.
"You really get the feeling of love because you have to trust each other," said McDonald. "Being a part of the offensive line, you truly care about each other. We love each other so much. You don't get that anywhere else. You don't see that with the quarterbacks because only one plays at a time. We are the five guys on the team that play all at the same time. We are one solid unit, so you have to be so close. The biggest thing I appreciate is the love and support that we get from each other."
A native of Sterling Heights, Mich., McDonald has been exposed to the camaraderie of football his entire life.
"I've been playing football since the first grade; first it was flag football, then tackle football in the second grade," McDonald said. "My dad's a football guy and my older brother plays for the New England Patriots. It's in my blood. I love it."
Ranked among the nation's top draft-eligible offensive guards by NFLDraftScout.com, McDonald will more than likely follow in his brother Nick's footsteps at the professional level. Although he would like to set himself apart on the field, he hopes to carry on the similar characteristics he and his brother share.
"When it comes to football, we are kind of them same when it comes to putting your hand down, going after it, keeping your mouth shut and proving ourselves on the field," said McDonald. "But I want to set myself apart in my personality; just being Chris McDonald instead of Nick McDonald's little brother."
He and his brother picked up a lot of their playing mentality from another member in their family. McDonald credits his style of play to the fight he saw in his mother, who lost her battle against liver cancer 11 years ago this November.
"She always taught me to never give up," McDonald said. "She was diagnosed in December and they only gave her a few weeks to live. She lasted until the following November. She was fighting. Basically, every game I come out and play for her. I know that's part of why I never give up; I never take a play off because I know she was a fighter. She always told me to hold on to the positives and let go of the negatives; just to go after it play by play. She was a strong woman and I think that's why I'm a strong person."
McDonald himself had to fight for his position throughout his time at MSU. After being redshirted and playing for the scout team in 2008, he saw action in only four games the following season. However, his determination paid off as he was selected to play at the starting position in 2010.
Starting 31 games for the Spartans since - including 22 straight - McDonald looks back on his time fondly, able to have played with his fellow teammates in games that will forever be engraved in Spartan history.
"I've had the opportunity to be a part of a program that has had many lasting memories, from the Wisconsin Hail Mary to the Notre Dame fake field goal," he said. "But my favorite memory has to be beating the guys down the road at Michigan. That was my first year starting and I got to beat them at their place."
McDonald took after his former teammate Joel Foreman and continues to preach the lessons he learned throughout his time on the offensive line.
"Joel basically just told us you're going to make mistakes, everyone does," said McDonald. "You've got to let things go. Especially in football, you're going to make mistakes. You can't hold on to it; that's just going to dwell with you. You've got to forget about it and get back on the line and go after it again. Sooner or later, you're going to do the right thing."
"Being a part of the offensive line, you truly care about each other. We are the five guys on the team that play all at the same time. We are one solid unit, so you have to be so close."
As his former teammates before him, McDonald wants to leave his own legacy at Michigan State when he moves on.
"Basically, I want to be one of those players that when people look back and think about Chris McDonald, they think about how that's a guy that loved the game," he said. "I want people to say he put everything into it. He always tried his best and never gave up and truly loved the game, because I love this game so much. That's what I want to be remembered by, that he never gave up and he did whatever he could to win."
He has not only accepted his role as a leader on the line, but has proven why he deserves such respect.
Sophomore center Travis Jackson has only played with McDonald for a short time and has witnessed the character that he portrays on and off the field and his true love of the game.
"When you're down and you come into the locker room, he's a guy who will pick you up," Jackson said. "He loves the game of football and when someone has a passion like that, it seeps into you. I've learned so much from him. He's a great leader for us this year and he's just a great player. It's just awesome to have a guy like that out on the field and in the locker room."
McDonald was also named to the preseason Outland Trophy Award watch list, presented annually to the nation's best interior lineman. However, he knows the credit cannot solely be his own.
"Words can't even explain what it would mean to me to win the Outland Trophy," McDonald said. "It would truly be an honor. But part of it would have to go to the other offensive lineman that I play with, because without them, without Andrew Maxwell, without Le'Veon Bell, without Coach (Mark) Staten and Coach (Dan) Roushar, I wouldn't be where I am right now."
As one of his fellow linemen, Jackson knows he has been able to learn from the best and has not only gained a greater perspective of the offensive line, but also a lasting friend.
"They say it's a different kind of person that can play on the offensive line - goofy and mean and all of the rest," said Jackson. "But when it comes to Chris McDonald, I'm kind of speechless when it comes to trying to explain a guy like that. He's truly a blessing to have in my life."
This feature was originally published in the Sept. 29 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.