The 6-foot-3, 212-pound standout from Hopkins High School originally gave his pledge to Minnesota almost a year ago but reopened his recruitment prior to his senior season. McDonald then found a home at Vanderbilt but had second thoughts on his commitment after wide receiver coach Chris Beatty took a job at Illinois. After official visits to Minnesota and UCLA, McDonald made the announcement that Gopher fans longed to hear, he will don the Maroon and Gold next season.
The decision was a difficult one for McDonald but in the end he found Minnesota to be the better fit than Vanderbilt.
“You know, it’s hard,” he said. “The new receiver coach that came into Vandy—great guy. When he took my home visit I had a lot of fun with him. We sat there and we talked, played video games. For me it’s just [about] relationships. I need to know. I need to know for sure who is going to be there for me.
“In my life I’ve never had anybody that’s been that person that’s been there for me all the time. Throughout my whole recruiting process, the Minnesota coaches, Coach Kill and Coach Zebrowski, were always there for me to talk when I needed to talk. Once I was sure how my support base was going to be with them. Once it hit me that they stuck by me through this whole thing and still want to help me become the best player, student and person that I can be, I was positive I wanted to be here.”
McDonald had the pleasure of informing Kill and a number of other Gopher coaches on Wednesday night of his decision during an in-home visit.
“It was great,” he said. “Coach Kill, I’ve never seen him that happy before. He gave me a big hug, all the coaches gave be a big hug. Coach Kill, it made me happy just to see him happy. I felt like I had a huge weight lifted off my shoulders when I told the coaches what I wanted to do.”
The Minnesota staff feels like they may have found a player to help fill the void of star receiver Da’Jon McKnight.
“They told me that not having Da’Jon, they need a deep threat, a playmaker, somebody that can stretch the field vertically,” he said. “That’s something I can see myself doing. They haven’t told me, ‘you’re going to start, you’re going to do this.’ I know that I’m going to come in and work as hard as I can possibly work to get what I want and that’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’ve been doing all my life.”
Along with his relationship with the coaching staff, McDonald has also formed a number of friendships with other current Gopher recruits.
“We all talk,” he said. “I talk to Isaac [Hayes] all the time. I talk to Duke [Anyanwu]. Duke is a really good friend of mine. Maxx [Williams] and Phil [Nelson] are good friends of mine. I talk to a lot of the guys a lot. We all keep in contact—ask each other how everything is going.”
The other recruits helped to make McDonald more comfortable with the Gophers.
“Everywhere I went, not even talking visits, but at school and just in general in life, I’ve never felt as comfortable with people I don’t know than I feel at Minnesota,” he said.
McDonald and his fellow commits will sign their letters of intent on Wednesday for National Signing Day. He will sign from the International Bowl in Austin, Texas before he plays in the all star game.
“I’m going to sign down there in Texas and then it will be faxed back up there to Minnesota,” he said.
Once signed, McDonald will officially be a Gopher, something he has been eagerly awaiting.
“Just really being around the guys every day,” said McDonald when asked what he was most looking forward to most about playing for Minnesota. “Being around the coaches every day. I’ve never felt so comfortable being around people that I don’t know. When I went on my visit to Minnesota, I’ve never felt that comfortable, ever.”
Along with the support of his coaches and his future teammates, McDonald is grateful for the positive response and encouragement from Gopher fans.
“It’s great to know that people care. That’s something that I was missing all the time in my life, just knowing that people care. It’s great to know that people are passionate about Gopher football.”
Andre McDonald Profile