August 9, 2013
McDonald finds perfect balance
Tim McDonald has found the perfect balance in his life to this point.
The 48-year-old is the new defensive backs coach for the New York Jets and reunites with former coach Dennis Thurman, now the team’s defensive coordinator.
McDonald was feared on the football field as a strong safety for both the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers after being an All-American at Southern Cal. During his 13-year pro career, McDonald earned six All-Pro nominations and a Super Bowl ring in San Francisco.
Upon his retirement in 1999, McDonald was offered a coaching job by the 49ers, but turned it down to spend time with his sons, T.J. and Tevyn. They had lived apart for nearly two years, McDonald playing in San Francisco and his family living in Fresno. He accepted the head coaching job at his alma mater, Edison High School in Fresno.
Those years turned out to be magical, largely because he got the chance to coach his sons.
McDonald coached Edison for another year after Tevyn, a year younger than T.J., graduated. McDonald then took a coaching internship with the Seattle Seahawks, launching his second career. By that point, T.J. was thriving at USC. McDonald spent a year as defensive backs coach at Fresno State before being hired by the Jets.
“I know one thing, I wouldn’t change my path for anything,” McDonald said. “The years I got to spend with my boys was just great. To be able to build that bond and do it in a fashion where they were just getting into high school I was able to ride to school with them every day. Getting to spend quality time with 15, 16-year-old boys with their dad was great. I wouldn’t change that for anything. I was happy to spend that time with them. It was important that when I retired, that spending that time with them was well worth it. I got an opportunity to coach college football after they left and now I’m here.”
The chance to interview with the Jets was exactly what McDonald wanted, plus it was a chance to be with head coach Rex Ryan and reunited with Thurman.
“It was definitely exciting,” McDonald said. “You hear throughout the league and I know several friends who played for Rex. I’m excited to be a part of this staff. Rex sees most things as a player and is loved by his players. The players understand that and want to fight for him. I didn’t have many regrets as a player, but I did miss the opportunity to play for Buddy Ryan, Rex and the gang. They came to Arizona the year after I left for the 49ers. Rex would have been a great guy to play for and he is a great guy to coach under.”
“Yeah what a great combination, unfortunately for us, those two can’t play for us now,” Ryan said referring to McDonald and Thurman. “The guy is phenomenal. There is no question. You mentioned his playing days. What was he an All-Pro like seven times, eight times, something like that. So when he speaks, you know, it’s the old E.F. Hutton deal. I mean they’re listening. He’s a very strong man, he demands that the guys do things right. If you don’t like it, he will put you on the ground. He is still a big man. I mean you are going to pay attention to him one way or another.”
Connecting back up with Thurman, another USC alum and his coach for a short time with the Cardinals, again is nice for McDoanld as well as returning to the NFL.
“Not just a connection with Dennis, I have a connection with the league,” McDonald said. “I’m excited about it. Dennis and I are friends. This is the world I know. This is where I spent so much time of my life in. I’m excited about the opportunity.”
“I know what Tim brings to the table,” Thurman said. “He’s very smart, dedicated and conscientious. He wants to do a great job. He knows how to talk to players and he knows how to work with players. He came in to interview and we thought he was the best candidate for the job.”
McDonald prides himself on being able to connect with the players because of his on-field experience.
“I have a lot of football experience,” McDonald stated. “I think the thing I like I to pride myself on is I’m able to see things through a player’s eyes. This may look great on a chalkboard, but it’s a little different when you get out on the field. I think the guys trust it and believe in it. I can see some things they may have trouble seeing from their perspective, that always helps. It may not always be the greatest thing, but it helps.”
With All-Pro Antonio Cromartie on one side in the Jets’ secondary, while Kyle Wilson, Dee Milliner and others are all fighting for playing time on the other., McDonald offers his assessment on his cornerbacks.
“It is great competition,” McDonald said. “I am excited about it. Obviously, Dee is going to get a long look. We expect big things out of him. There is competition there and there’s competition at safety. That’s what this team is all about. Rex made a statement that he wants this to be about competition. No one is going to be given anything, you have have to earn it. The guys are taking the bull by the horns and going out there to compete. We will have the best 11 players on the field.”
Being a former safety, what does he like there for the Jets?
“We’ve got some guys who can play, they just lack experience,” McDonald stated. “Whether it’s experience in our system or just experience being a Jet, or just lack of experience on the field, it will take a little time. The more practice time they get, the more they get their feet wet, the better they will each get, They each have some unique qualities. That’s exciting to watch and to see them develops.”
McDonald, Thurman, Ryan and all the New York Jets get their first real test tonight in Detroit. Kickoff time is 7:30 and you can listen to the game on WXHC (Oldies 101.5 FM).
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