One look at McDonald's Facebook page provides strong hints to both answers. First, there's a banner photo of Robert Sands twinned with an image of "The Predator" – Sands' persona as a college player at West Virginia. Next, there's multiple references to the Heisman Trophy, from his name to his "business". Put those two together, and you have a solid initial snapshot of the outstanding Miami defender, who committed to West Virginia on Saturday.
"My idol is Robert Sands," he said of the former free-ranging Mountaineer safety. "I saw him when he was playing at West Virginia, and his game is just like mine. He was the tallest safety I had ever seen, and that was exciting for me. West Virginia will give me a chance to show my ability there. A lot of other teams were talking to me about other positions, but safety is where I want to play, and WVU is giving me that chance. It's the school for me."
At 6-5, McDonald certainly fits the physical mold of Sands, who roamed the field for West Virginia. Sands patrolled from sideline to sideline, and often dropped down to a strong safety spot on third down plays to get more involved in the underneath and mid-level parts of the field. McDonald's aggressiveness and love of contact make him a perfect fit for that role.
Last year, at Champagnat Catholic High School, McDonald went through the season with only 16 teammates. That was a challenge, but it gave him the chance to play a number of different positions on defense, as well as some double duty as a running back.
"I got used to playing a lot of different positions, so I am used to it by now," he said. "I don't get tired. And playing those other positions helped me a lot at safety. We are going to have more players this year, though, so I don't think I will have to play as many. I'm definitely going to be a safety on defense, and I might not play offense this year. Safety is my favorite. You can do things and the offense can't always see you, and receivers can't look at you all the time when they are catching the ball."
McDonald isn't just a pass defender, however. He rates his skills against the run and pass as equal, and doesn't shy away from contact at all. That's his first love, in fact, making him a force no matter where the opposing team tries to attack.
That other hint on his page – the multiple Heisman references? There's no doubt the talented McDonald has set high goals for himself. He thinks he can be better than Sands – and perhaps the best in the nation. He even extends that notion to his choice of address. When asked if he prefers Isaac or Ike, he says, "Either one, but you can call me 'Mr. Heisman'".
"My whole life, that has been my goal – to win the Heisman," he said. "I am not bragging, but I think I can be great. I want to be a defensive player that wins it."
West Virginia is McDonald's second commitment. He announced for Clemson earlier this year, but realized that he still wanted to hear what other schools had to offer. He noted he thought he was read to commit at the time, but quickly found there were more offers and pitches to listen to.
That fact may make some observers nervous that another decommitment could follow, but McDonald insists that the recruiting process is done for him, and that he is solid to West Virginia. He noted that his travel is pretty much over for the summer after a busy schedule with Team USA, and that he plans to take just one official visit – to WVU -- this fall.
Also playing a part in his decision was his relationship with WVU assistant coach Robert Gillespie. The Mountaineer running backs coach stayed with McDonald even after he announced his first commitment.
"Coach Gillespie," McDonald said, drawing out his name as he put together his thoughts. "He really is like family to me. He's the coach that I talk the most with, and we started getting very close as my junior year ended. When I committed, he stayed with me and recruited me even harder."