Talkin' Football with T.J. McDonald

With a rare combination of athleticism, leadership and determination, incoming freshman T.J. McDonald has all the tools to develop into a future star and fan favorite at USC. SCPlaybook's Kevin Carden recently caught up with the talented safety for an exclusive interview on a variety of topics.

Q: What have you been up to since signing with USC?

T.J. McDonald: I am playing baseball and working out. I have lost a lit bit of weight and I am just trying to stay in the weight room and workout when I can. I am just getting ready and preparing myself for USC.

Q: What was your impression of the team from watching them during the spring game?

McDonald: It was back to the high-energy USC football. It was nice seeing everybody get back into the groove of things, running around and hitting people. It was exciting now that this is the group of guys that I am going to be playing with. I am starting to get to know everybody pretty well and I couldn't be more excited about it. It's a real good group and I think the chemistry of the team is really good this year. The competition will be just as good if not better because the whole quarterback competition motivates everybody else to compete. Everything is up in the air so everybody is trying to grab a spot and it's going to be something that is fun to be a part of.

Q: Did any players stand out to you with the way they played during the spring game?

McDonald: Of course Taylor Mays, you must not have been watching the game if he didn't stand out, just by looking at him. Matt Barkley, just going out there and to watch him compete and the way he is taking on the whole college thing. It is definitely paving the way for all of us because he is coming in there and competing and having a chance to start. Most people were telling him that it is too hard and no one could do it because the system is too hard to learn as a freshman and he has gone out there and he is doing it. I kind of take the same mentality. I don't care who is ahead of me, with respect to everybody else on the team, but I am going to come in and do what I can to get the spot. If I can't, then I will contribute to the team in other ways but that's where my mind is. I just want to come in and compete to get on the field.

Q: Obviously your good friend Matt Barkley had great success this spring. Did that surprise you at all, and how good of a player do you think he can be at USC?

McDonald: If you know Matt Barkley it wouldn't surprise you because of his whole mentality about everything and his work ethic. I knew he was going to come in and play and work his tail off. That wasn't a surprise, but it's a big transition from high school to college and the way he has handled everything, the fans and himself on and off the field, especially with all the hype he had to deal with. He is just taking it all in and he has the right mentality. What has surprised me the most is just the way that he has transitioned from high school to college with the fans and everything. When he came to campus people already wanted his jersey because he was the No.1 player out of high school.

Q: Talk about what it's going to be like to have the opportunity to learn from veteran players like Taylor Mays and Josh Pinkard in the secondary.

McDonald: That is definitely something that I am looking forward to. I am going to soak it all in and be a sponge, but at the same time I am coming in there to play and my intention is to go in there and hit anything that is moving and make a name for myself, and that is kind of what you have to do. People will respect you once they see you on the field and see that you are playing. You can have friends but people will respect you once you go out and show that you can perform and that is exactly what I am going to do.

Q: The USC secondary is one of the strengths of this year's team and has the potential to be the best unit in the nation. What is it like to join such a talented group?

McDonald: That is what makes USC such a great school. They got all this competition and all these guys that are so talented, so you know that you are playing against the best everyday. When you get put in on a Saturday there isn't going to be anything to surprise you because you have been playing with the best. It's going to make you better and set you up for success. The best thing about USC is the competition and the talent that they have there.

Q: I know you are very close with Coach Seto. Talk about your relationship with him and how excited you are to have him as your defensive coordinator.

McDonald: I wouldn't want it any other way. Coach Seto is the type of guy that you want to surround yourself with. Those type of guys that work hard at everything that they do, in coaching, as a father and in the church. I am excited to learn from him and I'm going to take everything in, ask as many questions as possible and just learn as much as I can. I want to make myself the best player that I can be and I know that Coach Seto will put me in that position.

Q: Coming from a USC family what is it like to fulfill your dream to play for the Trojans?

McDonald: I can't even really put it into words because it's something that I have dreamed about and wanted to do my whole life. Especially, when I got the USC offer there was no doubt in my mind that this was where I wanted to be. You can think about it and dream about it all you want but now that it's a month away it feels like it isn't real. By all means, I am going to take advantage of my opportunities and I am not going to take anything for granted.

Q: What can USC fans expect to see from you when you take the field this fall?

McDonald: Excitement, intensity on the field and some big hits. I will be wearing No.7 next year so I want people to see that when No.7 is coming there are going to be collisions. I just want to get after it.


T.J. McDonald was Scout.com's no.2 safety in the 2009 recruiting class.


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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden at kevin@scplaybook.com




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