Diamond In The Rough

Though injuries have limited his playing time the last two seasons, Vance McDonald has a world of potential. And after coming up short on adding a couple of late recruits to their signing class, the Owls are thrilled this one didn't get away...

How does a 6-5 225 pound Defensive End who runs a 4.6 forty slip under the recruiting radar? Well a combination of events led to East Chambers' Vance McDonald being missed by several programs. For starters, he was only about 5-11 in the 10th grade - then grew nearly 6 inches in two years. McDonald injured his right shoulder in the first game of his junior year, which forced him to miss most of the season. Then fast forward to the first game of the 2007 season - another shoulder injury, this time the left shoulder. The fact that East Chambers is a small 2A school off the beaten path in East Texas combined with his injuries led most schools to look past McDonald's vast potential. Except a few that is - Baylor, Rice and Sam Houston all recruited McDonald. Rice was the lucky one, landing McDonald's letter-of-intent yesterday.

I spoke with McDonald Tuesday night about his injuries, his potential, and his future at Rice.

How does it feel to earn a scholarship to Rice?

"It feels really great! Rice is an awesome school and I'm excited about getting a once in a lifetime education."

When did Rice start recruiting you?

"Coach Washington came by our coaches office before Christmas to talk to me and Tramain Thomas (Arkansas signee). He was like a flame lighting a candle when he talked about Rice. I got really interested in them after that first meeting with him."

You've had some injuries, and surgeries, to deal with the past two seasons - tell me a little about them?

"I injured my right shoulder the first game of last season, I tore my labrum. It was surgically repaired in March and it's a lot stronger now than it ever was before the injury. I did the same thing to my left shoulder the first game of this year. I'll have surgery on it in March after basketball. The doctors say these injuries are a result of growing so fast that my shoulders didn't have time to fully develop as quickly as I was growing."

You'll have several months to rehab and get ready for college this fall. Will you be ready for Rice when you get here next January?

"I think my shoulders will be stronger than ever. I hope I keep growing like my dad did when he was a college freshman. He played football at the University of Texas and gained 40 pounds his first year there."

So tell me about this past season for you - it had to be frustrating...?"

"I tried to take on a leadership role after I got injured. I couldn't play but I could encourage my teammates on the sidelines. It's all I could do to help the team at that point, so that's what I did. I ended up getting back on the field for my last few games - I got 11 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss in my last few games."

You played some tight end too right?

"Yes sir, I ended up with several (10) catches. I like playing with the ball in my hands. But I really like hitting the quarterback too."

So how did you decide Rice was the right place for you?

"I started hearing about Rice last summer. My mother is a teacher in East Chambers and actually took some classes at Rice to brush up on Pre-Calculus last summer. She talked about the squirrels and how beautiful the campus was all the time. When Rice started recruiting me we drove over to the campus and met with Coach Bailiff. After we left we talked for about 10 minutes about Coach Bailiff's character. He did a really great job of presenting the university to us. I really like him a lot."

You also play a little basketball I understand?

"Yes sir, I'm averaging about 15 points and 15 rebounds a game. I actually met a Rice alum after my game in Beaumont last night. He taught me a Rice yell too: That's alright, that's OK, we're gonna be your boss someday."

Which sport do you like better?

"Definitely football. I like to hit people."

What do you look forward to at Rice?

"I'm really excited about the strength and conditioning program and the upgrades to the facilities. By the time I get there a lot of that stuff will be in place and it will be brand new. I think the football program is going to be good for a long time to come."

You can see why Rice coaches are so excited about the potential Vance has. He's got great bloodlines - his dad played football at UT. He runs a legit 4.6 so he brings speed from the edge. While he's struggled with injuries, doctors say his rapid growth spurt directly contributed to those. He's never really been able to focus on a weight program because he's played basketball every year, then had a surgery that required rehab for 5 months immediatley afterwards - yet he still weighs over 220 pounds right now. He had 11 sacks and 15 TFL in just 5 games this year, so he's a high motor player who obviously knows his way to the backfield. McDonald could easily transform into a 6-5 260 pound speed rushing Defensive End at Rice. Yes, at Rice - not some Big 12 school - at Rice! Nice find Coach Washington.

Welcome to Rice Vance! Now start eating...

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