Mike McDonald played linebacker for the Trojans from 1976-79 before going on to play in the NFL and says that he has always had a great deal of respect for the history of Notre Dame. "One of my coaches at USC, Marv Goux, always wanted to kick their (butts), but one thing he did say was that he respected them," Mike McDonald said. "I've always thought the world of Notre Dame."
But with his son Anthony ready to be a freshman linebacker for the Irish in the fall, McDonald is going to have to take that a step further.
"I always root for Notre Dame to win every game except for one," he said. "Now, for four years, I'll have to root for them to win every game. I can do that."
The younger McDonald warned that his father better be cheering for the Irish.
"If he doesn't, I'll attack him in his sleep," Anthony joked. "I can't quite take him yet, but I can get him when he's sleeping."
It's clear that Anthony, who stands 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, has a great deal of respect for his father.
"I idolized my father growing up," he said. "I'm sure that a lot of kids wished that their father was in the NFL. He influenced me to start playing. But there was never any extra pressure on me because I've been able to set my own destiny and not be overshadowed by my dad."
Having a father in the NFL also gave Anthony an edge when it came to training at an early age.
"Training is my number one priority," he said. "My dad got me started working out during seventh grade. In eighth grade I started to grow and put on some muscle. People thought that I was on steroids because I was the only kid working out."
Mr. McDonald also coached Anthony and his older brother Mike all of the way up until high school. Mike played quarterback at UNLV before transferring to Tennessee-Chattanooga where he will be a junior in 2008.
"It was obvious at an early age that they could do things that other kids just couldn't do," Mr. McDonald said. "A lot of times Anthony was forced to play quarterback or safety because he was our best athlete. I remember him playing in a championship game and making plays like he was (Lawrence Taylor)."
Anthony and Michael both played at Burbank High School after youth football, but Anthony transferred to Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks before his sophomore year.
At Notre Dame, Anthony was reunited with a former opponent in quarterback Dayne Crist.
"I didn't know him, but we started playing against each other in Pop Warner," McDonald said. "We scrimmaged Notre Dame when I was a freshman at Burbank and I sacked him. Dayne likes to say that I never sacked him, but I have pictures."
As McDonald and Crist became fast friends, Anthony continued to make a name for himself on the football field.
Mr. McDonald realized how much potential his youngest son had in his very first game at Notre Dame against Birmingham High School and its star running back Milton Knox.
"As a sophomore, he made a play and I looked at my wife and said, ‘uh-oh'," Mr. McDonald said. "He took on the fullback, shed him and chased down one of the fastest running backs in the state and caught him from behind. That's when I knew."
Mr. McDonald wasn't the only one who was impressed with that game.
"After the game, my grandmother told me that I reminded her of my dad," Anthony said. "That was definitely a great feeling to have her say that because it made me think that I could get to the next level."
For all of the natural ability that Anthony has been blessed with, he would not be where he is headed today without hard work that his father helped instill in him.
"He's really a student of the game," Mr. McDonald said. "Most high school kids will tell you that there are 11 players on defense, but Anthony knows that with the sidelines there are more than 11. He studies game film. He studies his opponents. That's a thing that a lot of high school kids don't understand."
To his father, the future is almost scary.
"He does a great job once he puts his mind to something. He really focuses in the classroom, on the field and in the weight room. He's strong as an ox, and he's conscious of his body and what he puts in it," McDonald said. "He's only going to get bigger, stronger and better once he gets with Ruben Mendoza."
The sculpting of his body clearly paid off in the eyes of college coaches, especially Corwin Brown. Brown and Brian Polian were in Southern California when they stopped by Notre Dame and caught a glimpse of Anthony in a tank top.
"Coach Brown said that he needed to be coaching linebackers just so he could coach me," Anthony said. "Ever since then we've had a good relationship."
McDonald gathered scholarship offers quickly - faster even than Crist.
"I was bragging because when Notre Dame offered me, he still had no offers," Anthony said. "Dayne tried to downplay it, but when they offered him, he came up to me with a huge smile."
Initially, Crist was not as high on the Irish as McDonald was.
"When Notre Dame offered me I knew that I would be going there," McDonald said. "But Dayne was leaning a little bit to LSU. He came back from a trip to LSU raving about it. But I said wait until you see Notre Dame."
McDonald and Crist flew out to Indiana to check out Notre Dame, but Crist's flight was delayed and McDonald committed before his teammate even touched down.
"He was mad that I committed without him, but he fell in love with it too" McDonald laughed. "It's awesome to be going to college with one of my best friends and to be able to carry that on for four or five more years."
Anthony had no problem telling his father of his decision.
"He knows how great of a school it is," Anthony said. "He told me stories when I was a kid about Notre Dame. He always says that he hates the Bruins, but respects Notre Dame."
It's clear that Mr. McDonald never had a problem with it.
"I think it's great, and I'm excited for him," Mr. McDonald said. "There is no doubt about it, it's a great institution. USC is a great school too, and I'd have loved to have him go there, but if not, nowhere else is better than Notre Dame?"
But then again he never had much of a choice either.
"My wife has no connection to USC," he said. "She's a full-fledged Notre Dame fan. She could care less about the Trojans."
Cathy McDonald said that she is all Irish now.
"Notre Dame just draws you in," she said. "I had never been there until Anthony was being recruited and it was absolutely amazing. It's hard to describe."
So what will November 29 be like?
"Oh my gosh, I can't wait," Cathy said. "I don't know what it's going to be like, but it's going to be fun."
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