It’s been called “The World’s Toughest Job Interview.” For seven days at the NFL Combine (Feb. 20-26), college football’s best will be measured, interviewed, tested, watched and analyzed by countless NFL coaches, general managers and scouts prior to the NFL Draft. To prepare, more than three-dozen top prospects traveled to IMG Academy for six-plus weeks of position-specific skill-work, speed and movement, physical and mental conditioning, communications and leadership training, nutrition, vision training, sports medicine and more with world-renowned coaches and trainers.
“More glory to the tight-ends!” exclaims former Rice University tight-end Vance McDonald. McDonald is training at IMG Academy coming off an exciting senior season at Rice – the first time since 2008 that Rice went to a bowl game. Of McDonald’s 36 catches on the season, 28 resulted in first downs, including three fourth-down conversions. We sat down with McDonald and spoke on topics from the growing importance of tight-ends in the NFL to being invited to the Senior Bowl to playing in the band during halftime of his own high school football games.
Vance McDonald on…
…which tight-ends he looks up to?
Tony Gonzalez, of course, and then James Casey out of Rice. I know him on a more personal level. That guy did it all, and that’s what I look forward to. I don’t want any boundaries. I want to be able to fit into any system.
…being top-10 in catches, receiving yards and touchdown receptions at Rice
I was very fortunate to have success in college, and got to know a lot of good guys. I just tried to fit into the system, and the coaches wanted to utilize me, so that helped. But it’s an honor to be known along with those other guys on that list.
…the Senior Bowl
Oh man. I’m excited just matching up and seeing all the talent. I come from a small school, but you keep on stepping up and stepping higher and getting a feel for everything. You have to realize how far you’ve come from, and keep a level head. I would say seeing all the talent from the other teams and getting a feel for the other top seniors will be my favorite part.
…the growing value of tight-ends in the NFL
More glory to the tight-ends! I love how that philosophy is starting to pick up. It’s such a threat. Speed of a receiver, the build of a giant fullback or small lineman. You can get some unbelievable matchups with the defense. It’s awesome to see that philosophy build up in the NFL and see where it’s headed.
Oh my goodness…The first day I got here...getting the box of gear and stuff. I told my parents it’s an extended Christmas! Everyone, all the coaches…it’s just a super positive environment. Great atmosphere in which to learn the techniques they are teaching us. The relationships I’ve built with the coaches and the incredible résumés they carry – it’s great being taught by the best.
…something people don’t know about him
I play the piano. I was in band from 7th grade through high school. I played a lot of things: trombone, baritone, tuba, percussion. My grandfather was a director at a high school, and I just followed in his footsteps. I was playing in halftime shows up until my senior year. I would be in my pads playing trombone or percussion. My senior year, my coach told me, “ Vance, I’m sorry we have game changes, we have plans, we have to look at the defense and make changes. I can’t have you out at halftime.”
…his favorite music
Mercy Me, David Crowder Band. Really any gospel. I grew up in a Baptist church, and my faith is very important to me.
…what’s on his bucket list
Playing in the NFL, obviously! I’m really looking forward to giving back, and finding a niche I’m passionate about, especially helping kids that are less fortunate. Actually, one of the only guys I talk to from high school, Mark Wilkenson, is disabled, and he’s inspired me to give back. I want to show the people less fortunate than me that people care and that there are a lot of great things to look forward to.