JACKSONVILLE — Ten years ago while lining up at inside linebacker for the Jacksonville Red Devils, playing defensive tackle for the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl probably didn’t seem in the cards for Clinton McDonald.
But after bulking up in college, adding 50 pounds of mostly muscle while not losing much speed, the Super Bowl is right where Jacksonville fans can watch McDonald on Sunday.
McDonald is listed as the backup at right defensive tackle to Brandon Mebane, but the Jacksonville native rarely seems to be off the field. Mebane has 45 tackles on the season, while McDonald has 35 tackles, 5.5 sacks and an interception. The sack total is a career high and a solid number for an interior lineman.
McDonald has worked hard to get where he is in the NFL. Choosing the University of Memphis coming out of high school, McDonald walked on campus as a 6-foot-3, 245-pound linebacker.
He was soon switched to a down lineman, where he had some reservations due to being undersized. But McDonald’s strength and quickness helped him more than hold his own as he continued to grow.
By the time he left Memphis, he was a 300-pounder who came in under the radar and wowed scouts at the NFL combine with his quickness and freakish strength as one of the strongest players in the combine.
With his draft stock now raised, McDonald was hearing he could possibly be drafted as high as the third round. While being drafted that highly didn’t happen, he did go in the seventh round to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I never really had aspirations or dreams of playing football,” said McDonald. “It just didn’t seem like a reachable goal. You have teachers telling you that you’re not going to make it, that the odds are against you. I didn’t really start thinking about it until I started doing well in college.”
McDonald earned his way to the practice squad as a rookie and saw action in eight games his second year with the team before being traded to the Seahawks for former first round cornerback Kelly Jennings.
The Seahawks saw the kind of potential and use they could get out of McDonald in their defensive scheme. Seattle has turned into one of the most feared defensive teams in the league, with McDonald playing his part in that success.
McDonald found out a little more about the business side of the league early this season. After re-signing with Seattle for a seven-figure deal in April, he would be cut in the final round of preseason cuts. After being shown interest by the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers, McDonald came back to sign for a lesser amount with the Seahawks.
In fact, McDonald signed with Seattle on a Friday and was in uniform making tackles two days later on Sunday.
Despite his success on the field, McDonald remains as humble as ever. He began his “Iron Sharpens Iron” football camp in Jacksonville this past summer, and can be seen at his brother Courtland’s baseball games for either Jacksonville High School or Gwatney Chevrolet in American Legion summer ball.
While McDonald is soft-spoken and humble away from the field — he will always thank God first and foremost in any interview — he plays with a fiery demeanor and a self-professed chip on his shoulder; first from being drafted late, and then after being cut and signed again by Seattle.
“Now the real work begins,” said McDonald immediately after he was drafted. “I’ve got my foot in the door and now I need to get on the field and show them what I can do. I’ve still got this chip on my shoulder and I want to show every team what I can do and what they missed.”
There are hundreds of NFL players, coaches, GMs and owners who will be sitting at home on Sunday watching what they missed out on.
Super Bowl XLVIII
5:30 p.m. • Sunday • FOX (KLRT-TV)
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Seattle Seahawks (15-3) vs. Denver Broncos(15-3)