Colts Alumni Q&A: LB Devon McDonald

Devon McDonald was drafted by the Colts after playing for a national championship team at Notre Dame. Shortly after that exciting season, he was part of the Colts team that in 1995 came within a catch of going to the Super Bowl. Hear all about it in Todd Taylor's exclusive interview with Devon...

Todd Taylor: What was your experience at Notre Dame like, playing for Lou Holtz and winning a national championship?

Devon McDonald: It was great, when I got to the University of Notre Dame he promised me three things; one, I was going to graduate, two you'll be a national champion and three, you will play on National TV. And, everything he spoke of came true. I was fortunate to win a championship in high school…I think winning a championship at any level, there are certain principals that come into play: great coaching, great leadership, great defense, a quarterback that doesn't make mistakes and great special teams, so those are the things he preached and those are the things we practiced. Obviously you need athletes too, people to make the plays…we had all that at Notre Dame.

TT: Were you excited to be drafted by the Colts and stay in Indiana?

DM: I was surprised and excited because my twin brother came up before I did and he told me whoever talks to you the most will not draft you. Growing up in New Jersey, the Giants said, "we've got a third round pick and our linebacker, Lawrence Taylor, is about to be out and we need someone to replace him and we think you're the guy." So, the guy that I idolized, I can replace him, so it would've been a great fit — I thought. 

I played in the Cotton Bowl in 1993 against Texas A&M and I was the MVP of the game, defensive MVP with 10 tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss…outplayed their linebacker and that's who they (the Giants) drafted, a guy named Marcus Buckley. So of course, that didn't make me feel so good. But I was pleasantly surprised, the Colts said they were watching me when we were playing at Notre Dame, so they said they had been watching a lot of my games but didn't want to tip anybody off. So the Colts wanted to keep me a secret and said they had been watching me for some time.

TT: You were playing for the Colts during the 1995 season, could you recollect that experience?

DM: I'll tell you what, I think every great occurrence has a theme that go along with it, and it was ‘let ‘er rip'…Ted (Marchibroda) at some point just said ‘let ‘er rip' and that was Colts football — if we win we win, if we lose we lose, let's not worry about it, let's go play. That's what we did and it was great. That game down in Kansas City was memorable, I loved it, I love to be at a place where everybody hates me. That's what it was, not only did they hate us, but nobody gave us a chance. 

Think about it, we were playing without Marshall Faulk and Rosevelt Potts and then right before the game, we found out that Tony Siragusa was out with the flu. So our two running backs and our run stopper were out — to win the game you need to run the ball and stop the run and we were effected in both areas so obviously the media, some of our fans, and some of our families maybe — nobody gave us a chance. They had Marcus Allen, I mean they had the squad, they were 13-3. I mean they were looking so far past us we were like a little piece of shrimp underneath their toes. To beat them was just tremendous. 

TT: What about the locker room, everyone still believed in spite of the injuries?

DM: Yeah, no doubt it was just a certain confidence. Like I said, when I won a championship in high school — you just know. Like the first time I met my wife, I knew she was going to be my wife — I didn't understand it, but I just knew it. It was the same way that year. It didn't make sense, we were 9-7, barely made the playoffs and now against Pittsburgh, we were one play away from going to the Super Bowl. The math just didn't add up but we just knew things were going to happen, but just couldn't explain it.

TT: As an AFC linebacker in the mid-90's who were some of the toughest opponents you remember going up against?

DM: We played against Emmitt Smith and San Francisco that year. Obviously we played against Andre Reed, Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas, you had to pack your lunch. I'll tell you what our defense was really good, every time we faced Emmitt, I don't think he got more than 60 yards, obviously it was tough to shut him down. Pittsburgh was always tough on us, even when you beat them, you still feel it.

TT: Who were some of your friends in the locker room, and do you still talk to any of them today?

DM: Quentin Coryatt and Jeff Herrod, I haven't spoken with them in a while; Damon Watts, Tony McCoy, Tarik Glenn, who came around at the very end. I also speak to Marcus Pollard periodically.

TT: Can you describe the transition of going from the Colts to the Cardinals to the Arena Football League?

DM: The Colts fired me; they let me go. Then Arizona let me go after a year; they wanted younger players. So I was out for three years trying to get back, and there was nothing going on. So, I got involved with this ministry where I work with three other Colts; Steve Grant, Ray McElroy and Glen Sanders — the company is called Sports World and I pursued that. 

Once I signed up to do that, a coach called me from Tampa Bay (Storm), he said "I want you to play linebacker," I said, "have you seen me play before," he said "nope." But he said he thought I could play linebacker in the Arena Football League. So without any workout or tryout I'm down there playing LB, that was tremendous. I did it for two seasons and after the second season, they moved the beginning of the season from April to February. 

Well, the ministry I'm involved with goes through the school system, so now I had to make a decision. Play on the football field or keep going to schools. You know, if you have two great loves, it's hard. That was a tough choice I had to make and I chose to give up football. The day I called the coach to tell him I was going to give up the game, he said, "listen man, I had to get rid of some players and you are one of the ones I am keeping." Because anytime there is a new franchise, you have to get rid of some players, not scrubs, but people you really want. But sure enough, I had to tell him that career-wise and spiritually it was a choice I had to make.

In-story photo provided by the Indianapolis Colts.

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