Paul McDonald, Millennium Hall of Fame

Paul McDonald didn't need to be a member of USC's Beta Gamma Sigma

to realize his vulnerability in his first NFL start for the Cleveland


It was late November 1982 and the weather in Cleveland was nasty. Snow

turned to sleet, then to rain. Only five days earlier, former Browns

assistant coach Paul Hackett told McDonald he was getting the Sunday nod

against the Steel Curtain from Pittsburgh.

The four-time Super Bowl champions were still intact. Guys like Mean

Joe Greene, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount were still playing ferocious


McDonald, who always received the offensive plays from the sideline as

the USC quarterback for two years, was suddenly thrust into a situation

where he was expected to call the plays, while barely able to hold onto a

wet ball.

For a capper, Cleveland got the ball first that day, and as McDonald

walked up to the line, he looked around to check Pittsburgh's alignment.

Sure enough, there was Lambert staring at him with a merciless snarl.

"There was No. 58 with no teeth, and looking wild-eyed and wacko like

most middle linebackers do, and Lambert definitely was," McDonald said.

"I thought to myself, 'Well, you finally made it. Here you are and

there's no hole to crawl in.' So there I was, playing against a

historical team."

The Browns won the game, 10-9, and later made the playoffs that

season, in which McDonald threw two touchdown passes with no

interceptions in Cleveland's first-round loss against the Oakland Raiders

and his old USC teammate, tailback Marcus Allen.

While McDonald would start every game in the 1984 season and play

eight years in the NFL with Cleveland and the Dallas Cowboys, his

favorite gridiron moments consist of Rose Bowl victories and an NCAA

national championship in 1978.

McDonald, who set 17 NCAA, Pac-10 Conference and USC records as Coach

John Robinson's signal caller in 1978 and '79, was blessed with a golden

touch of a left throwing arm coming out of high-powered Bishop Amat High.

But strangers on the street wouldn't exactly see a quarterback chiseled

out of granite. He had height (6-foot-2), but McDonald was a

self-proclaimed "normal guy."

In an era featuring Heisman Trophy winners Allen and Charles White,

offensive linemen Brad Budde and Anthony Munoz, and defensive stars

Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Lott, McDonald played the perfect role for the

Trojans as the pitch man for Tailback U. who would kill opponents with

timing passes, like the game-winning, eight-yard touchdown pass to Kevin

Williams with 32 seconds to play in USC's come-from-behind, 17-12 victory

over LSU in September 1979.

An All-American in 1979, McDonald was part of several dramatic Trojan

finishes, as well as a 23-1-1 record in two seasons.

McDonald is one of four USC All-Americans to have worn jersey No. 16,

tied for the most in school history with Nos. 66 and 78. Brice Taylor,

Frank Gifford and Rodney Peete also wore No. 16 for USC and made


But McDonald, who completed almost 60% of his career passes (299 of

501) at USC for 4,138 yards, 37 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions, is

quick to point out his strong supporting cast.

"It was an opportunity of a lifetime to play on those teams at USC

with all those players at that talent level," said McDonald, who set an

NCAA record for the lowest rate of interceptions (2.6%) in his collegiate

career. "The talent around me allowed me to really show what I could do.

I've talked to a lot of quarterbacks, and they've said it's the other

people around them that had a lot to do with their success."

The Trojans went 12-1-0 and captured the national championship in

1978, defeating Michigan in the Rose Bowl, 17-10, to secure the title

over Alabama.

McDonald, a Newport Beach resident and currently in his second year as

a radio analyst for USC football games, said one of his career highlights

is knocking off Notre Dame at South Bend, Ind., on national television in


"We'd just tied Stanford (21-21), so we were angry going in there,"

said McDonald, who will never forget the experience of playing at Notre

Dame in a hostile environment, inside a stadium rich with football

history and fans yelling as if victory meant life or death.

"That was my athletic highlight -- everything that went into the

game," said McDonald, whose Trojans won, 42-23, in a year he was voted

USC co-MVP, first-team All-Pac 10 and All-American by AP and Football


"I just worked hard (in my career) and loved to play. I had passion

for playing the game, and I loved to compete in big-time situations.

"I was able to achieve a lot, but not with a lot of God-given talent.

The fact that I had passion in what I was doing, and loved what I was

doing, it allowed me to devote endless hours to be good at what I was

doing. That's what I try to tell kids today. Whether you're playing

sports or not playing sports, whatever you're doing, have passion for

what you're doing.

"That's one message I've tried to tell my children. I don't care if

they play football or sports, but what I do care about is that they find

something to have passion about, and hopefully God will put you in a

position to have an opportunity."

McDonald, drafted by the Browns in the fourth round in 1980, graduated

from USC with a degree in business finance and a 3.51 grade-point

average, meriting several academic awards, including membership on the

Dean's List and Beta Gamma Sigma, USC's business school academic honorary

society. An NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winner, McDonald was also an

Academic All-American (first team in 1979, second team in '78).

Heavily involved in the community and with charities, McDonald has

served on the Board of Directors for several organizations, including

"Street Smart Kids," a company that promotes child safety, and "Sports

for Life," a program that teaches children how the lessons of sports

apply to life.

"You've got to give back to the community you're from, and that's the

real legacy you can leave," he said. "It's not about collecting things,

but it's trying to make a difference."

For the past two years, McDonald, formerly of Wells Fargo Bank, has

been a partner at Spectrum Alliance Group based in Newport Beach, a

company that specializes in "loyalty" programs and seminars. McDonald

also serves on the Board of Governors of the USC Alumni Association,

coaches a Junior All-American football team in the area and can always be

spotted at Irrelevant Week.

McDonald, a member of the Daily Pilot Sports Hall of Fame, celebrating

the millennium, married Newport Harbor High graduate Allyson Riley (Class

of '77) 17 years ago. They have four children: Michael, 14, Stephanie,

11, Andrew, 9, and Matthew, who will celebrate his first birthday on


"I like to say it's a second marriage, but the same wife," he said,

referring to the timing of their latest addition.

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