Numbers for any sport in high school are rarely retired, but Jacksonville put away the first of two Friday morning at a celebration in the Devil’s Den.
Former Red Devil, University of Memphis Tiger, Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl champion and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Clinton McDonald was on hand to retire his high school No. 40 jersey Friday morning. Former Red Devil and Chicago Bear Hall of Famer Dan Hampton’s jersey will be retired during the opening football game this fall.
The moment on Friday was commemorated as Jacksonville Vice Mayor Kenny Elliot proclaimed the day as “Clinton McDonald Day.”
McDonald wore the number as an inside linebacker and tight end for the Red Devils under former head coach Johnny Watson.
“Clinton had such a tremendous work ethic,” said Watson. “He loved the weight room. He was always pushing those around him to be better. He was definitely a leader on the field, but he didn’t mind getting in your face either.”
McDonald became a defensive lineman in college, where he set the Memphis record with four sacks in a game and became the first junior at the university to be elected as the team captain.
That legendary work ethic is what helped allow McDonald to gain the size necessary to play on the line and eventually become a seventh round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Something I try to get across to high school athletes is to do that hard right over the easy wrong,” said McDonald. “It is easy to not get up early and work out. It is easy to skip school and not do your work. But that’s not how you get to where you really want to be. You have to do the hard things to succeed in life.”
Almost exactly one year ago, McDonald signed a one-year deal with Seattle worth more than a million dollars, and then barely a week before the first game of the season, McDonald found himself cut for financial reasons and without a job.
The Jacksonville native didn’t waste timing feeling sorry for himself however; he got right back to work.
“When he got cut, the first thing he did was call and ask if he could use our track and weights to work out,” said Jacksonville Athletic Director Jerry Wilson. “He is such a humble person. He told me he wasn’t done in the NFL and had to be ready. I can’t explain what he means to this community. He should be an example to everyone.”
McDonald was soon resigned by the Seahawks, had his best season as a pro, then started and helped dominate Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
“I didn’t take a day off when I was cut, because you have to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,” said McDonald. “Everybody will go through their trials and tribulations, but what I’ve been given is an opportunity from God and it is my duty to make the most of that opportunity every day that I can. Because, you know, every day is a surprise and you never know when that opportunity will be gone.”
McDonald recently signed a lucrative new contract with Tampa Bay, worth 12 million over four years. But true to his ways, he didn’t show up in an Armani suit, driving an Italian sports car. He came to the ceremony in a pickup truck, wearing camoflauge shorts and a t-shirt.
“Football used to be a release for me and anger when I was younger,” McDonald said. “Now it is really a way to reach people. It lets me express my talents, but also to spread God’s blessings. I’ve been blessed to have this stage and I’m required to give back. I need to be an example of God’s blessings.”