Matt McDonald has always had a lot to prove.
Whether that be when he was fighting for the starting quarterback spot with future USC signal caller JT Daniels, or when he decided to transfer from Boston College to Bowling Green. The former Newport Beach, California, native always knew that he could be great.
“I always play with a chip on my shoulder, I’ve had a crazy career up to this point. A lot of us are underdogs, and weren't highly recruited coming out of high school. So you kind of embrace that underdog role and it kind of fuels your fire and motivates you more,” McDonald said.
But since coming to Bowling Green, there have been a plethora of hurdles that McDonald has had to jump.
First, after it seemed that his immediate eligibility after transferring was sure to be accepted, the NCAA sent word that he would have to wait a year to play. Then, leading up to what was to be his first season, the pandemic hit and the MAC postponed all fall sports.
It all seemed bleak for McDonald, another opportunity being taken away from him through no fault of his own. But when the MAC announced that they would play football starting on Nov. 4, it was like a breath of fresh air for McDonald and the rest of the Falcons.
“It was nice just hearing it out loud that we’re playing, it was nice to get a definitive answer. It was devastating when they said the season was canceled, I actually sat down and started crying in the meeting room when we found out that we weren’t playing because so much hard work had been but into this,” McDonald said.
This year will be the first time that McDonald will start for a college football program. At Boston College, with current BGSU Head Coach Scot Loeffler as his offensive coordinator, he threw for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 7 of 8 passing. This came in only two games, but he was at Boston College for a reason.
In his senior year at Mission Viejo High School McDonald, where he completed 136 of 211 passes for 2,674 yards and 39 touchdowns, McDonald was able to impress Loeffler and the other coaches at Boston College enough to offer him a scholarship.
While at Boston College however, McDonald couldn’t find his way on the field, only playing two games for the Eagles. When then offensive coordinator Loeffler took the head coaching job at Bowling Green, McDonald saw a chance to start at Bowling Green and took it.
McDonald has been in Loeffler’s offense for more than four years now, and even though for him, the time off was devastating, Loeffler felt that it helped him to become more acclimated at Bowling Green.
“He’s been in the offense a long, long time. The time off helped him, last year helped him, being able to sit in meetings and kind of learn how we’re thinking and what we’re thinking, what’s good against what. That’s good for him,” Loeffler said.
Now McDonald is preparing to enter a season where he is the starting quarterback for the first time since his senior year of high school. There were a lot of hoops to jump through to get this point, but he is excited for the year that lies ahead.
“I already can’t really fall asleep, I’ve been staying up till 2 a.m., plays running through my head, just visualizing how that first game will go. I will obviously be very excited and I know for a fact I’ll be ready to go,” he said.
Although excitement is going to come with playing in a college football game for the first time in almost two years, the product on the field is going to be another thing. McDonald clearly believes that he has what it takes, but it is going to come down to more than that with a young core of players around him.
“He knows what to do, he understands the offense and he has to play well. We’ve got such young birds out there right now and it’s youth everywhere. Youth on the offensive line, youth at the wide receiver position and that is going to be the story for a little bit here, we’re going to have a bunch of young players … we’ve got to take the next step but he’s got to play well because he is the older guy. The guys around him have got to help him even though they’re young,” Loeffler said.
The BGSU football season may largely depend on how McDonald can lead this team into the future, something that the redshirt junior realizes himself as well.
“We got a lot of young guys that are going to help us big time so we just gotta bring them along. It’s been great, it’s given me a lot of opportunities to become more of a leader and become more vocal and I’m still working on that but I think I’ve gotten a lot better at that this past year,” he said.
But along with the opportunities to grow as a leader, the fact that teammates this season are young and unknown helps them in their outlook of this season.
“I think that’s what makes a team dangerous, I’ve had a chip on my shoulder my entire life, I mean most of the guys here have been counted out their entire life and we’re just a hungry football team and we know how good we can be,” he said.
It is that mentality, along with the skills and leadership that McDonald brought with him when he came to Bowling Green a year ago, that can help get Loeffler’s program going back in the right direction.