Fresh from an experience “that has taught me a lot about myself, the people around me and the media,” Tevin McDonald is racing into a new one.
Probably the highest-profile transfer in the history of Eastern Washington University football, the former UCLA safety said he’s looking forward to “making the most of this opportunity.”
McDonald got off to a good start Thursday afternoon in his first public appearance before practice Thursday at Roos Field. Far from the media glare of Los Angeles, he comfortably faced the three television cameras and two iPhones that qualify as a media crush in Spokane.
“Cheney has been great so far and the guys have been great,” said McDonald, a two-year starter at UCLA who was suspended from the Holiday Bowl in December after a third positive drug test.
“They’ve been very welcoming and understanding of my situation,” McDonald said. “I just want to make this coaching staff know that I’m putting this behind me and I’m looking to make the most of it.”
McDonald was dismissed from the UCLA team on March 26. Under UCLA policy, a player loses his scholarship after a fourth positive test.
“Probably in his mind this is the last chance, and … that may be what he needs,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who emphasized that the decision to accept McDonald was done after contacting his high school coaches as well as members of the UCLA staff.
On the field, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound McDonald started 13 games last year and ranked third in tackles with 79. In 2011, he appeared in all 14 games and started the last 11, making 56 tackles and tying for ninth in the Pac-12 in passes defensed. He tied a school record with three interceptions against California. He earned freshman All-America honors from three organizations.
His father, Tim McDonald, an All-American safety at USC, played 13 years in the NFL, including 1993-99 for the San Francisco 49ers, who won Super Bowl XXIX.
McDonald’s first day of practice at Eastern was without pads, according to NCAA regulations. He went through drills with the rest of the defensive backs, donning the same No. 7 jersey he wore at UCLA.
“I’m a student of the game, I feel like I know the game well, and I feel like Eastern Washington is getting a competitor,” McDonald said. “I expect to compete for a job, but I know it’s not going to be handed to me.”
The 20-year-old McDonald, a junior who redshirted at UCLA in 2010, has two years of eligibility remaining.
Heading into Saturday’s scrimmage, Baldwin assessed the team’s overall progress as “average to slightly above average,” then tempered that by saying in that the coaching staff has “mentally thrown more at them than we ever have … but we want to get to it early.” … Saturday’s practice will begin at 10 a.m., with the scrimmage portion beginning roughly at 11:30 a.m.