Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ LB Grant McDonald retires from CFL at age 23

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Canadian linebacker Grant McDonald has chosen to retire from the CFL to pursue a career as a firefighter in his home province of British Columbia. The 23-year-old made the news public this past weekend with an announcement on social media.

“It’s been overwhelming, honestly. I’ve had ex-coaches and teammates and family and friends from all different aspects of life reach out. I’ve had an overwhelming amount of messages. There’s been a lot of shock, I guess a lot of people weren’t expecting me to have a fairly short career,” McDonald told 3DownNation via telephone.

“It wasn’t exactly how I wanted to go out but it was something that I wanted to do as well. It’s been overwhelmingly positive and super, super nice to hear from everybody again.”

The six-foot-three, 235-pound defender was selected by the Edmonton Elks with the fourteenth overall pick in the 2021 CFL Draft out of the University of Calgary. He led the team with 16 special teams tackles as a rookie, which also tied him for the fifth-most league-wide.

McDonald was traded to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in May 2022 alongside Canadian offensive lineman Kyle Saxelid and the second overall pick in the Global draft.

In return, the Elks got first and third-round picks in the 2022 CFL Draft and the ninth overall pick in the Global draft. Edmonton used the two Canadian draft selections on quarterback Tre Ford out of the University of Waterloo and long snapper Peter Adjey out of Queen’s University.

McDonald dressed for 18 regular season games with the Ticats this past season and made eight special teams tackles, finishing tied for fifth on the team. He also made two special teams tackles during the club’s loss to the Montreal Alouettes in the East Semi-Final.

“I can’t say enough good things about both programs. The coaching staff in Edmonton that drafted me was fantastic, I’m still in contact with some of them. I really couldn’t have asked for anything more for my rookie year. It was unfortunate the way the program turned with the new coaching staff and the new personnel and whatnot. We didn’t have too much success that year but it was still fun nonetheless,” said McDonald.

“Same for Hamilton. I’ve talked to each coach, they’ve all reached out. [Head coach Orlondo Steinauer] and his whole staff there is unbelievable. They did a great job with us players and I really couldn’t say enough good things about Hamilton. I’m really fortunate that I got to play in Hamilton. I think it was a really unique Canadian football experience. All the teammates that I had there are really good buddies of mine now. I’m super fortunate for my time out there and wouldn’t change it for the world.”

McDonald originally committed to the University of Maine where he was converted to tight end. He transferred to Calgary as a sophomore where he joined his older brother, Jack, who played receiver. The brothers helped the Dinos achieve a perfect 8-0 record during the regular season in 2018 before capturing the Vanier Cup in 2019.

The native of Tsawwassen, B.C. is hopeful that he will be hired as a full-time firefighter within the next few months.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.