SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA- An emotional Ray McDonald addressed his Florida
teammates for the final time on the practice field as the Gators honored
their seniors in “Senior Tackle”.
“Senior Tackle” is the annual tradition where each senior runs through the tackling dummy for the final time and a player talks about that senior. The player is followed by the position coach taking a few minutes to speak about the senior.
Defensive end Derrick Harvey took a few minutes to speak about Ray McDonald. Defensive Co-Coordinator Greg Mattison then spoke about McDonald.
“Oh, you know man, I had to shed a few tears. It’s been a long road for me. I shed a few tears. I cried a little bit. I think that I probably was one of the only ones that did. I saw a few of my teammates try to hold back a few tears, but I just let mine rip out. I was thinking about my surgeries just leaving my teammates and my coaches. I was thinking about all of that and started crying.”
McDonald has had a terrific career for the Gators. However, it has been one that has forced him to overcome injuries and battle through painful rehab sessions to earn his way back onto the gridiron. McDonald had corrective ACL surgery on both knees last season.
“I have the utmost respect for what he’s done,” Mattison said last summer. “I can’t say enough. I’ve had guys who had one ACL and had tough times coming back, especially guys that had such high goals and had so much talent. He’s a guy who has had both of them fixed and is really on track to do it all.”
McDonald accomplished the feat. However, he suffered a dislocated ulnar ligament in the Arkansas game a month ago. Once again, McDonald responded and got back in the game.
Still, he is appreciative of Florida head coach Urban Meyer’s friendship during those trying times.
“Coach Meyer was there with me the whole way (after the knee surgeries),” McDonald said. “I ate with him a few times, and his family, when I was on crutches. He was there for me everyday. Anytime I needed something, he was always there. He gave me his wife’s number, that says a lot about him. He said that anytime I needed anything and if I couldn’t get in contact with him to call her. He was just there for me everyday.”
The Belle Glade native enters the BCS National Championship Game with 134 tackles, including 25.5 tackles for loss and 11 quarterback sacks. Through his leadership, McDonald has demonstrated how to live right through injury to the young Gators that dominate the Florida roster.
“All the preparations are done. We have a little walk through tomorrow to make sure everybody is in tune and everything. We’re just ready to play now.”
“It’s going to be real emotional. I’ve thought about it what it’s going to be like when everyone runs out there together and we see everybody in the stands and know that we’re playing for the national championship.”
Without the leadership provided by Ray McDonlad they might not have that chance.