For the past two seasons, it wasn't hard to miss James McDonald on the football field. Although he is 6 feet 3 and 190 pounds, the Dunbar senior wide receiver found himself near the bottom of the depth chart behind upperclassmen in his first two seasons, and double- and even triple-teamed by opposing defenses last season.
Through it all, McDonald has remained the consummate team player for the Crimson Tide. The wideout has helped Dunbar win three Turkey Bowl championships since he arrived as a freshman. The constant pressure on McDonald left open other receivers, and allowed the Crimson Tide's running backs more room to maneuver upfield.
Still, McDonald managed 33 receptions for 442 yards and six touchdowns last year. As he enters his final season, McDonald knows the spotlight is shining on him as the Crimson Tide's most seasoned receiver. He relishes the opportunity to show more than glimpses of the talent that has garnered attention from college recruiters at Notre Dame, Boston College and Pittsburgh.
Yet, the one thing McDonald won't allow is for his personal goals to overshadow those of the team.
"I don't have anything to prove," McDonald said. "If they [opponents] want to double-team me, we have weapons that are capable of doing the job. I still want to be productive. If it happens, that's great. Last year, I tried to force it and was dropping passes and doing too much."
During the offseason, McDonald worked on improving his footwork and his pass-catching technique. He focused on moves that will separate him from cornerbacks to be in better position to make receptions.
He also worked hard to develop a relationship with projected sophomore starter Nathan Bussey.
"He's a natural quarterback, and he knows where he has to throw to give me the ball," McDonald said. "I feel confident with the team in his hands."
Dunbar Coach Craig Jefferies has noticed the effort that McDonald has made to help the team succeed this season.
"He has great hands and runs great routes," Jefferies said. "He's pretty crafty in terms of what moves and agility will free him up for the ball. He's just a smart receiver."
-- Judith Evans