That was probably the most common remark heard Saturday when folks at the Spring Game got a first hand look at East Chambers athlete Vance McDonald, who has signed a letter of intent to play football at Rice. Needless to say, he's an impressive looking player that Rice coaches are thrilled to have coming in. But they'll have to wait - McDonald is "gray shirting" so he'll sit out this fall, waiting to enroll at Rice until the Spring of 2009. From a talent standpoint McDonald could perhaps help the Owls this season, so that's definitely not an issue here. Nor is academics. The cause for delay is some minor shoulder surgery that McDonald will have done in the first week of May. He is expected to have a complete recovery and actually be fully recovered around October.
I refer to McDonald as an "athlete" in the true sense of the word. He's a 3 sport star at East Chambers, competing in football, basketball, and currently track. His football potential obviously has Rice coaches and fans buzzing, but he averaged a "double-double" in basketball and has had possibly even more success in track. Last year he was a Regional Qualifier in the Triple Jump. This year he's competing in the Triple Jump (45'3"), the Long Jump (20'6") and at 6-5 220 pounds is anchoring the 4 x 100, 4 x 200, and 4 x 400 meter relay teams. "We've done pretty well - we won all the relays at the Anahuac meet."
(You can pick your jaw up off the floor now.)
With that kind of athleticism you see why Rice coaches are smiling!
Vance had a great visit Saturday. He came up with his family and he shared a few of his impressions of the experience afterwards. "The field was just amazing. It was perfect. I visualized myself playing on that field and it was just an awesome feeling." Vance had not seen the field since it's installation - it was incomplete at the time of his visit.
Speaking of family, his dad enjoyed the visit maybe as much as Vance did. "My dad played football at UT, so he loved being down on the field around all the coaches and the players."
He also had a chance to meet several of his future teammates Saturday. McDonald signed his letter of intent after Signing Day so he hadn't met a lot of the players as he would have if he had taken an official visit back in December or January. "I got to meet Chase (Clement). He's just a real cool guy." Showing a sense of humor, Vance added, "I thought I should meet the quarterbacks in case I end up on offense. You want to get in tight with the guy who's throwing the ball." He was quick to follow that, "but that's not my decision I'm going to show up to play football - the coaches will decide where they want me." Where they want him at this point is Defensive End.
Vance also had an "on the field" experience that solidified the sense of family that a lot of player, recruits, and coaches talk about at Rice.
"Coach Washington took me over to the defensive line group and some huge player ran over and grabbed me. I didn't catch his number but he picked me up in a bear hug and said, you're one of us - we'll take care of you when you get here!"
McDonald's surgery will require 5-6 months of rehab and recovery. I should add, part of the reason he's having surgery is because his body has grown so quickly. Doctors foresee no chronic issues. He expects to be at full speed in October, and hopes to report to Rice around 240 pounds...