During the opening week of free agency earlier this month, the excitement level by most fans of the Buccaneers was concentrated on the bigger names for the most part, like Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner, defensive end Michael Johnson and even left tackle Anthony Collins.
But defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who may have slipped through the cracks in many people’s minds, could be a huge boost and an impact player for the Buccaneers. Poised to line up next to Gerald McCoy and expected to get pressure on the quarterback, McDonald has only excelled in one of his four NFL seasons, but the one year paid off for the former Memphis Tiger.
Signed to a four-year, $12-million dollar contract, McDonald’s career stats before last year were mediocre to say the least. In three seasons the former Arkansas native had totaled just 64 tackles, and average of just 21 per season. And in the span, McDonald had never posted a career sack. But in 2013, when teamed with one of the most formidable lines in the NFL playing for the Seahawks, McDonald notches 35 tackles, posted 5.5 sacks, and even had an interception. The proverbial light seemed to come on.
“I think it was definitely opportunity meeting chance. But also the things that happened like studying tape, putting forth the effort and putting forth the work.”
McDonald knows his path from Cincinnati to Seattle, being released and later re-signed, then his journey to Tampa Bay hasn’t been the one he may have seen for himself as a rookie back in 2010, but told PewterReport.com it has made him the player he is today.
“Who is to say if I had been a first-round draft pick things would have went the same way that they have?” McDonald said. “I can’t say that, nobody can say that. We don’t know. At the same time I experienced a lot and learned a lot in the process and I am still learning a lot. I am just a player trying to learn all I can so I can pass it along to the next guys (one day).
“(When) I was released it made me realize you only got one shot at this sport, one shot at this life and you got to make it the best opportunity or make best on the opportunities that you have presented with you. With that in mind, I got back in my college mode and got back on grind mode and do what it takes to make the necessary sacrifices to get what you want.”
As one of just three Buccaneers to own a Super Bowl ring (Tom Crabtree, Evan Dietrich-Smith with the Packers in 2010), McDonald hopes to share his knowledge he learned from winning a championship with his new teammates and offered this advice.
“The experience from the Super Bowl and winning was more so (about) responsibility, doing the right things,” McDonald said. “After we won the game and everything, we got back on the plane and Coach Ken Norton, Jr. –everybody’s using the word ‘champ’ now – and he told us that it’s a responsibility. You start to feel that more and more. It’s not just one guy. It’s a team effort, and with this group of guys on the stage and along with the guys that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers already have, and the staff, it’s going to take an effort.
“It’s going to take hard work, it’s going to take bringing your lunch pail every day, it’s going to take coaching, it’s going to take criticism, it’s going to take honesty – you have to be honest with yourself and you have to be ready to go out there and work for it. Like me and Coach Smith talked about, (the Super Bowl) was more so a reward for the hard work that we put in, and I believe when we put the hard work in here, we’ll get the reward.”
McDonald later referenced the famous Fredrick Douglass quote, “People want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning,’ when describing what it takes to be successful.
“Some people want success without hard work,” McDonald said. “At the same time it takes things like that, it takes some kind of adversity to bring out the best in people.
“I hope to form a brotherhood here, a championship team here with the guys on stage and the guys that are already here as well. We know it’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot dedication, it’s going to take a lot of focus but I think we have the right people to do it and get the job done.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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