Saturday, April 19, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> JHS No. 40 jersey retired

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville High School had its first jersey number in school history officially retired Friday. Former Red Devil standout Clinton McDonald, a starting defensive tackle for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks last season, was honored with a ceremony in the JHS gym that ended with his No. 40 football jersey being retired.

McDonald’s No. 40 jersey is one of two Jacksonville jersey numbers to be retired this year. Later in the fall, former Red Devil and Hall-of-Fame defensive tackle Dan Hampton, who won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears in 1985, will also have his jersey number retired.

McDonald’s journey to success wasn’t easy. The Seahawks cut him just before week one of last season, only to re-sign him for less money the next week. He started the next 15 regular-season games for Seattle’s stellar defense, as well as each playoff game that followed, including Super Bowl XLVIII.

“I think it’s more so a blessing than anything, along with a responsibility,” said McDonald. “God has allowed me to make it this far, to play in a Super Bowl and actually be a Super Bowl champion. I feel like he set the responsibility on me, too, to go out there and speak on his behalf and show the kids a positive role model.”

McDonald wore No. 21 throughout his junior high playing days, and described what led to him switching to No. 40 in high school.

“I wore No. 21 in junior high and coach Rick Russell said a guy named Dominique Harris wore No. 40 before me, and when he gave me the jersey, he said ‘You’ve got some big shoes to fill.’ He was a pretty good player, and I told him I was going to try to do my best to fill them.

“I like a challenge. So when I get a challenge I like to try to meet that challenge. I just wanted to make the best out of whatever jersey they put me in.”

Russell was McDonald’s defensive coordinator at the time he played for JHS, and he said McDonald is just as impressive of a guy off the field as he is on it.

“The thing that comes to mind most is the way that he and his family approach life,” said Russell, “athletics, school, and relationships and everything they do. And that comes from their home.

“They had such a great example to follow with Mr. Mac and Mrs. Mac. They’re all just great kids with great character. They’re hard workers, leaders; every aspect of being a champion, they have. Whatever it takes for him to be successful he’s going to do.”

Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson, who was McDonald’s basketball coach at JHS, shared much of the same sentiments.

“The thing that I like about him is he’s very humble,” said Wilson. “He’s given back to the community. What he’s meant to the city and the community, he’s an example.”

McDonald was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009 before being traded to Seattle in 2011. He had his best year as a pro last season, recording 35 tackles, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.

On March 11, he was rewarded for his play on the field with a four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers worth $12 million.