November 15, 2012

Chris McDonald: Durable, dependable, consistent

EAST LANSING - It's not that Chris McDonald was refusing to talk about himself and his five seasons at Michigan State, it's just that he's never been used to it.

And why would he be?

He's an interior lineman, who leaves the field with a dirty uniform and with a helmet that displays enough scratches and chips to make it look like someone was just scrapping it along the sidewalk.

So when he was asked to sum up a career at MSU that will see him depart as part of a 13-member senior class he chose to do what he's always done in three previous seasons as the Spartans stalwart at right guard, talk about the team and its chances to close out what has become a difficult season, on a strong note.

"We're 2-4 on our home field and that hurts,'' McDonald said. "I want to go out with a win at home, my last time playing, and I think we're coming out in practice with everybody knowing we want to win this one. You look at the beginning of the season and you didn't think we were going to be 5-5. We had a higher expectations but I wouldn't change anything. I love these guys and I still think we're a good football team so we're just thinking about these last two games and trying to win them.''

When McDonald and the Spartans (5-5, 2-4 Big Ten) take the field at noon against Northwestern (7-3, 3-3) in the final home game of the season, the 6-foot-5, nearly 300-pound McDonald will be part of a 2012 group that will boast the second-most wins ever by a senior class - 33 and hopefully counting.

And that's one of the reasons he will allow himself a moment or two as he takes his last walk out of the tunnel at Spartan Stadium. Moments he said he tried to enjoy every week during his last season.

"I did that every week, I (always tried) to take it in but yes, I'm going to take a little more time and think about it when we do our walk across the field, maybe take a little moment and stand around there because it is going to be my last time in the uniform with the Green and White on.''

And while McDonald, an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection by the media as a junior, downplayed his role in the success of the Spartans offense, there are some noteworthy individual accomplishments that define who McDonald is and has become since that redshirt season of 2008.

In a season of turmoil on an offensive line that was at times decimated by injuries, McDonald is the only offensive lineman to have started and played in every game this season.

In the process, he has set a standard for durability and dependability by playing in 40 career games, which has included 36 starts and a team-best 27 straight at right guard.

Despite those impressive individual numbers at a very demanding position, he once again chose to deliver a positive message about the team, rather than acknowledge his own contributions to that success.

"As a team, I just want us to be as one of those teams that didn't give up,'' he said. "We kept on fighting even when we went through adversity. That we ended the season 8-5 after going to a bowl game.''

McDonald may have been reluctant to talk about himself but junior running back Le'Veon Bell, who has been one of the recipients of McDonald's hard work in the trenches, almost had to be muzzled as he heaped praise upon one of his favorite lineman.

"He's a tough guy, a true Spartan and I thank that man everyday,'' said Bell, who has gained 1,249 yards and scored 10 touchdowns behind McDonald and the other big boys up front. "I going to miss him when he leaves and I just want to make sure I do everything I can to send him out the right way on Saturday. He just makes plays up front as a lineman for me. He does everything for me and I can't do much without him so I want to see him out right.''

While Bell did a nice job of stating his reverence for McDonald's accomplishments, the Sterling Heights native may have summed up his career best when he put his legacy in perspective. A legacy that he always celebrated first as a teammate before talking about himself and his contributions.

"Personally, I want to be remembered as one of those guys that loved the game, that came after it every day. A guy just putting his hand on the ground and just going after it. And if someone said they needed help or a tough player, they'd think of me.''

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