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Tevin McDonald looks right at home in his first CFL camp, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, there was the productive college career, split between UCLA and Eastern Washington. A year on the Oakland Raiders practice squad was surely beneficial as well. But as far as his childhood football education goes, you won’t find many in this camp that had it better.
The son of former all-pro safety Tim McDonald has plenty of early football memories that involve hanging around the San Francisco 49ers locker room.
“I was little, but I have some memories here and there,” recalled McDonald.
“I would joke around with Steve Young. I remember Jerry Rice and had a childhood friendship with his son, Jerry Jr. Growing up around the game, I figured that’s what everybody’s parents did for a living was play football.”
Tevin’s older brother TJ is currently a safety with the Miami Dolphins and you can bet that further added to his desire to take up the family business.
Father Tim played seven years with the 49ers and helped them win their last Super Bowl at the end of the 1994 season. He has since graduated to the coaching ranks and served on Rex Ryan’s staff with both the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.
“After 13 seasons and 10 surgeries, football wasn’t the first thing he wanted his two boys to do,” said the youngest McDonald.
“It was tough for him to keep us away from the game.”
The Lions signed Tevin in January and he immediately turned heads at the club’s April mini-camp in Surrey. Over the past ten days he has now made the competition at starting safety really interesting with Steven Clarke.
“I’m enjoying it a lot,” said McDonald.
“It’s been an experience for me to come out and learn a new game, meet a new set of teammates and coaches but it’s been a lot of fun. I think the CFL suits my style real well.”
The adjustments are different for any American newcomer. McDonald is used to flying around in the secondary, but admits it has been a bit of a process picking up some of those little nuances the CFL game has to offer.
“I would say the waggle, the way the receivers move before the ball is snapped,” explained McDonald of the biggest thing he has had to pick up.
“It’s one of those things that makes this league unique. I have grown accustomed to learning different receiver tips and when they’re getting ready to make their breaks. It’s just a whole new thing to look at when a guy is ten yards into his stride.”
“He’s coming along,” said assistant defensive backs coach Stanley Franks.
“Once he gets the mental part of it down he has the ability and quickness to play that safety position. He likes to break on the ball and be downhill. With his quick twitch he can definitely play the position.”
When it comes to competing for a starting job, the native of Fresno, California maintains it is important to learn the most he can from Clarke and the other defensive backs.
“They are very good guys and all of them are smart. Steven is a guy you can tell has been in the system for a long time. He has a great grasp of what everyone is doing out here. Ronnie Yell knows that weak side really well. They have done a great job as veterans bringing me along.”
From his father to the coaches and vets in Kamloops, he has had no shortage of good people around him. Tevin looks forward to his father visiting on June 16th when the Lions close out pre-season at home against Saskatchewan.
“He is kind of in the dark when it comes to the CFL, but I have let him know the different things that come with it. I have let him know I am enjoying the whole thing and he is excited to see me play.”
The next step for young Tevin is proving his worth in game action. As he approaches day 12 of practice in Kamloops, McDonald relishes the chance to hit someone in red when they open up pre-season in Calgary on Tuesday.
“I just want to validate what I think the staff already knows; that I am a playmaker and like to help create turnovers to help our offence.”
Saturday’s camp schedule began with a non-padded morning practice. The tempo of the drills has become a bit faster paced as we inch closer to the start of pre-season play. Solomon Elimimian took a ‘maintenance” day and was expected to take part in the night practice (6:30-8:30PM) at Hillside Stadium.
Jason Aragki took some of those first team linebacker reps. alongside the likes of Tony Burnett and Cameron Ontko. The process to replace Adam Bighill remains a long one. The fact it can be done by committee is good news.
Perhaps the weekend’s biggest development has been Chris Williams returning to light practice duty. The speedy free agent signing took part in individual drills on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Although the hope is to graduate to light contact before camp breaks June 14th, they will continue to be cautious.
“I’m progressing and going in the right direction so I am looking forward to ramping it up in the next couple weeks and seeing where I can get to,” explained Williams on Saturday.
“It’s been a hard journey, a long journey, it’s still not done yet and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll have a lot to live up to when I get back in.”
Speaking of receivers, Shaq Johnson faired pretty well in the morning session. That is encouraging to see after he missed a bulk of the first week with a tweaked hamstring suffered last weekend in rookie camp.
The evening padded session had some live scrimmage play and lots of intensity. Junior Luke took advantage of some of the injuries on the defensive line and was a big standout. The excitement level for his CFL debut should surpass that of any other Lions’ draft pick in recent memory.
Wally Buono saluted the play of Buddy Jackson. On offence, Manny Arceneaux hauled in a couple of nice catches.
More Injury Notes
It is the annual reminder of why so many bodies are brought in, especially on the defensive line. Mi’chael Brooks did not take part in morning practice after suffering a shoulder/neck injury on Friday afternoon. He was on the ground for several moments after getting tangled up with Nate Isles in one on one drills. The good news is it does not appear to be as serious as first feared. Brooks will be evaluated later today and Sunday. Frank Alexander (foot), Bryant Turner Jr. (quad) and Dylan Ainsworth (neck) continue to progress. Running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence was dealing with migraines and did not take part in either of Saturday’s practices.
Just the one practice at Hillside Stadium from 3:30-5:30pm.
Matt Baker: firstname.lastname@example.org