They say ‘football is family’ and few players exemplify that better than University of Calgary linebacker Grant McDonald.
McDonald’s father, Bruce, was a five-year starter at defensive back for the UBC Thunderbirds. His father introduced him to the game and inspired him to become an elite U Sports player.
“My dad was one of my first coaches growing up,” said McDonald. “He definitely had a large role in developing my love for the game.”
The highly-touted prospect had offers from a number of schools coming out of high school including UBC, Calgary, Regina, Western, Manitoba, Buffalo and North Dakota. He eventually committed to the University of Maine where he was asked to learn a brand new position — tight end.
McDonald played running back in high school, which meant he wasn’t new to the offensive side of the ball. He shone most brightly on special teams where he recorded seven tackles and one forced fumble in nine games as a true freshman.
“I love the game. I love the defensive side of the game, I love the offensive side of the game. I’m good to play wherever, but I do think that I have found my game on the defensive side for sure,” said McDonald.
The Tsawwassen, B.C. native transferred to the University of Calgary in 2018 where he joined his brother, Jack — a receiver entering his fourth year. The Dinos have since welcomed the youngest McDonald brother when Ben joined the team at quarterback in 2020.
“Jack had a huge influence on my decision to come back,” said McDonald. “One of the things that was pulling me towards Calgary was the prospect of playing with Jack. We have a great relationship … and it was a great experience. It was everything I could have imagined and I wouldn’t change it even if I could.”
The McDonald brothers helped the Dinos achieve massive success over two seasons together.
Calgary finished a perfect 8-0 in 2018 before being upset in the Hardy Cup by the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. The Dinos went 6-2 the following year before rattling off four consecutive playoff victories to capture the Vanier Cup over the Université de Montreal Carabins.
“That was everything. We’d been working towards that goal for years as a program,” said McDonald. “We got so close so many times. We’ve always been a strong program but I think that group of guys we had that year was so special and we knew something good was going to come of it. Everybody gave it 110 percent — it was a full-on team effort.”
McDonald is one of many highly-touted Dinos prospects heading into the 2021 CFL Draft. He feels proud to be part of a strong draft year from the University of Calgary and the entire Canada West Conference.
“I think CanWest has always been very, very strong and this year is just a perfect example of that. CanWest is representing itself really well and it’s just a testament to our conference.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought football to a halt across Canada, but McDonald recently got the opportunity to participate in the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas. Though there were no contact drills due to health and safety protocols, the event gave McDonald a much-needed chance to show what he can do on the field.
“It was great just to get some competition going on again,” said McDonald. “It’s been over a year since there’s been pressure on us to compete. It was a great experience overall and really fun just to have some football in our lives again.”
McDonald was a second-round pick in my first mock draft because he has an excellent combination of size, speed, and physicality. He’ll make an impact as a rookie and has the potential to develop into a starter at weak-side or middle linebacker.
The date of the 2021 CFL Draft has yet to be announced.
University of Calgary
Weight: 235 pounds
Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.
Statistics: 83 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception
Anonymous quote from a CFL scout: “I think the right comparable for him is Nick Shortill, though McDonald’s a little bigger. He’s going to be a really good player for a long time.”
Projected round: 2-3