An exemplary person from West Fresno, who is a living example of what can be achieved through determination, is Tim McDonald. Anyone who is familiar with the great athletic traditions of the Edison High School Tigers, the University of Southern California Trojans, and the San Francisco 49ers knows that Tim McDonald is a testament to perseverance.
If asked, McDonald would not hesitate to enumerate the various people - teachers, counselors, coaches - who have guided him to a successful and fulfilling life. The building of a role model begins with lessons that are learned about respect, discipline, obedience, commitment, dedication, dependability, poise, pride, loyalty, honor, work ethic, and self-esteem. Whether at home, in a classroom, or on a football field, those were the tenets that McDonald absorbed. He knew it wasn't going to be easy.
McDonald was rewarded by becoming a prep football All-American at Edison. He was a quarterback and a safety on defense. His statistics would make any college recruiter drool: 2,739 yards passing (56.9 percent), thirty touchdowns, 400 yards rushing, six touchdowns, 123 tackles, and five interceptions. The next chapter in McDonald's athletic career was written at USC, where he majored in business administration and was a defensive safety during three years, making eleven interceptions and 325 tackles. McDonald was named to the 1986 All-American Team and was selected as the 1987 Defensive Player of the East-West Shrine Game. McDonald's aggressive play for the Trojans enabled him to be selected to the Walter Camp All-Century Team in 1999.
Naturally, the 1987 National Football League draft would show interest in McDonald and he was the 34th pick in the second round by the St. Louis Cardinals. He played his first six seasons in the NFL for the Cardinals from 1987 to 1992 and his final six with the San Francisco 49ers from 1993 to 1998. Career highlights included thirty-eight interceptions, fifteen fumble recoveries, seven and a half sacks, and four interceptions for touchdowns, but that doesn't begin to reveal McDonald's durability. He started 171 of 175 games, sitting out only once as a 49er and three times as a Cardinals. Tim's underwent ten surgeries, yet played in six Pro Bowls and the XXIX Super Bowl in 1995 when the 49ers beat the San Diego Chargers, 49-26.
Rival quarterbacks directed their attacks away from McDonald's zone. He was a quick-thinking, fast-footed, hard-rushing, solid-hitting, and well-coordinated adversary. His value to his team was further signified by his willingness to help younger players adapt by coaching them on techniques, finesse, and mind-set of a professional football safety. "Nobody lasts forever in this league," McDonald said during his last season in 1998. "I always figured one of my jobs was to also help players get ready to replace me when I couldn't play any more." He explained his philosophy of being an efficient play-for-play safety: "Ifa defensive lineman slips, one of the linebackers can cover for him," he said, "but ifa linebacker doesn't make a play, there's a defensive back behind him and we are not allowed to slip. It's a challenge, but I believe that the most satisfying thing is doing something that people say you can't" An insight into MeDonald's unselfish attitude, it has been noted, extended far beyond the playing field. For example, during the 1993 season -his first with the 49ers he generously donated $2,000 to charity for every victory by his team that season.
When it came time for him to retire in 1999, McDonald exited the sport he loved graciously, saying simply, "I've had a great time." He wasn't idle during his brief retirement. He promptly opened the World Sports Cafe in Fresno's River Park, and in January 2002, he was named head varsity football coach for his alma mater, Edison High. Realizing a longtime goal to "give something back" to the community, he said, "Kids are often told about the negative. I'm here to tell them the positive, to keep them motivated to get good grades, as well as to help them play football; it is my belief that football is secondary to those things."
In seven years at the helm of the football program at Edison, Tim led the Tigers to a 58-24-2 record, including a Valley Championship in 2009. During his tenure as coach, twenty-five of his players signed major college scholarships, twelve of whom went with Pac-10 schools. To top off the 2009 championship season, sixteen of his players posted a GPA of 3.0 or better, and nine of those had a 3.5 or higher. Coach McDonald emphasized character and discipline to his team, saying, "We talk about character, about how important it is to attend practice, how it relates to getting to class on time, and how that relates to taking care of your homework." He devotedly emphasized the "consequences of their actions" to his athletes. "Everyone wants to know why they have to do a certain thing a certain way," he explained, "but I say if you can't show them, then you're not going to get the most out of them."
Tim married his high school sweetheart, Alycia, and together they have raised three children, daughter Taryn, and sons T.J. and Tevin. T.J. played safety at Edison and followed in his father's footsteps at USC in the 2009 recruiting class. Younger brother, Tevin, another All-Valley player during his time at Edison, made things interesting at the McDonald home by accepting a football scholarship to major USC rival, UCLA. As if Tim McDonald was not busy enough, in 2010, he re-enrolled at USC to finish up his college degree. He has always practiced what he preached. After that, will he return to the coaching ranks? Most likely. As he told Andy Boogaard, sportswriter for the Fresno Bee, "Football has always been a part of my life for so long, I don't know what I'd do without it. In some shape of form, it will always be a part of the family, and pretty much year-round."