Oct. 21, 2017

by Spencer Haynes

To take his mind off football, senior offensive lineman Jack McDonald does something familiar to most people. He watches movies.

“I’ve been a big movie guy ever since I’ve been in college,” McDonald said. “What’s my favorite movie? Probably The Departed.”

The Departed is a Bostonian crime film by Martin Scorsese where a cop, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, must go undercover to infiltrate a criminal syndicate. Apart from being his favorite movie, The Departed has something else in common with McDonald, they both share roots in Boston.

“I love being from Boston,” McDonald said. “I’ve lived there my whole entire life. I’m from right outside [of Boston] in the suburb of Quincy. I went to school at Boston College High School. I could see myself absolutely living there the rest of my life.”

As a kid, he enjoyed the camaraderie that Boston fostered.

“I lived in a little suburb, so we had a bunch of kids on my street,” McDonald said. “I think there were almost 15 kids within the same age group.”

It was hard to fit all 15 of them inside, so McDonald found himself outdoors often.

“We were always outside doing whatever we could to stay active,” McDonald said. “A lot of our parents wanted to keep us out of the house, keep us playing outside.”

Because of his spending a majority of his time outdoors, McDonald quickly gravitated toward a variety of sports.

“Sports were always the biggest thing [for us] growing up, whether that be basketball, football, hockey or anything like that,” McDonald said.

Of all the sports he played growing up, it is hockey that he laments giving up the most.

“I played a little hockey back in the day,” McDonald said. “Looking back on it, I kind of wish that maybe I had given hockey more of a chance. I was like a right-wing type guy, a lot skinnier, a lot lighter, a little more speed. I loved hockey.”

If he did continue playing hockey, McDonald would have needed to work on decelerating, because he played without breaking, literally so.

“When I first started playing, I struggled with stopping,” McDonald said. “Any time I would score, I would skate into the boards.”

Being a hockey player from Boston, naturally McDonald rooted for the hometown Bruins.

“I loved hockey,” McDonald said. “I loved watching the Bruins. I’ve been so lucky with professional sports in Boston growing up.”

In a town, such as Boston, the success of the professional teams also cultivated McDonald’s desire to play sports.

However, despite playing numerous sports growing up, McDonald attributes the discipline his parents instilled in him as a key contributor to his success at Virginia.

“Education was always before athletics,” McDonald said. “You have to have the right grades or else you’re not going to be playing. Growing up, I always was pretty focused on my academics and making sure I was getting good grades in school.”

Amidst the demand of sports and academics, family remained in the forefront of McDonald’s life.

“The biggest thing for me is family,” McDonald said. “They say this a lot around [the football team]: family first, last and always. That is how I was raised before I came here too. I’m always face timing home, talking to my brothers, my sisters, my mom and dad.”

The closeness in age of McDonald’s siblings contributed to the closeness of those relationships.

“My sister [Kiley] is the oldest,” McDonald said. “She’s a year older than me. My brother [Michael] is two years younger than me, and the other one, [Dylan], is six years younger than me. We’re all relatively close in age. As we were growing up, there was one point where the four of us lived in one bedroom.”

That experience, helped cement relationships that were already strong.

“The idea of staying close was always important for us and our family dynamic, staying together and being there for each other,” McDonald said.

While McDonald is not sure what he might like to do once his football days have finished, there is a destination to which he would like to return.

Boston. To his family, his home and his roots.

“My biggest thing is I’ve always wanted to take football as far as it goes and see what happens,” McDonald said. “Whenever football is over, I’m not too sure what I want to do in life professionally. I could see myself moving back up north to Boston, trying to find my bearings up there.”

Whether McDonald returns to Boston remains to be seen. As for now, he will continue to thrive on the football field going ‘full steam ahead’ just as he did on the hockey rink back home in Boston.