McDonald answers the challenge at linebacker

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

Junior linebacker Seth McDonald recorded 17 tackles in his first start of the season against Western, his second start of his career.
Jason Howell
Junior linebacker Seth McDonald recorded 17 tackles in his first start of the season against Western, his second start of his career.

During his freshman year, junior linebacker Seth McDonald was given the nickname “Ham” for gaining 20-25 pounds. He was also called “Ham Sandwich” because his hometown is Sandwich, Ill., which lies in northern Illinois.

Between the summer of his freshman and sophomore years, he decided to lose that weight, which had become a joke in the Eastern football team’s locker room. His teammates saw a different player the next year.

“It definitely slowed me down a little bit,” McDonald said. “I had to pretty much shed all the weight and it worked out. I came in at like 220-225 last year, which is pretty much where I’m at now.”

McDonald came into his junior year weighing in at 230 pounds, and became the Panthers’ starting middle linebacker, after learning from former starter Adam Gristick.

“I definitely learned a lot from him. He’s my brother,” McDonald said. “I talk to him almost every single day. I just stepped up and soaked everything in.”

Eastern coach Kim Dameron said he has seen a tremendous offseason from his middle linebacker, which culminated in McDonald’s 17-tackle performance last Thursday in a 33-5 loss to Western Illinois. McDonald was named Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Week.

“We held Western Illinois to 1.8 yards per rush, and you don’t do that without a middle linebacker,” Dameron said. “He runs our defense and makes the calls. He sets the front and does a lot of things.”

McDonald said that he would prefer having two tackles and a win that night, and that he is just here to help his defense.

He was surprised to hear he had that many tackles, but he will approach every game this year like it was last Thursday’s.

“I really don’t count my tackles, just try to play my ass for these guys,” McDonald said. “If I get 17 tackles, great, but I’m just going to play hard and the tackles will come.”

McDonald had several games in high school when he made 18-20 tackles, but this was the first time he had that many in college. In the last two years he played mostly on special teams.

The hard work he put in during the offseason to improve his speed, quickness and mentality of the game has pleased his head coach.

“He had a tremendous offseason and it shows me what a young man can do when he really goes to work,” Dameron said. “He learned the game, and did everything we can possibly ask him to do. It showed up in his first performance.”

Dameron said if McDonald had not changed from last year, he would not be the player he is right now. Dameron said he is proud of McDonald for the challenge he had to answer.

McDonald has received help from a teammate in transitioning to the starting role. Kamu Grugier-Hill has aided him on and off the field and has become one of McDonald’s closest friends.

“We help each other out and have a lot of fun together,” McDonald said. “He’s one of my best friends off the field, and we have a lot of fun when we’re playing together.”


Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].