By Mac McLeod,
Being the starting quarterback for four straight years, 2016-2019, at Livingston Academy, Will McDonald accomplished just about everything a high school quarter could ever expect to set his eyes on. During his four years as the Wildcats’ signal caller, McDonald came away with at least four school records and led his senior class team to the school’s first ever undefeated regular season.
What he managed to be a part of next was something he was told he could accomplish, but in reality, it would have to come several years down the road.
“I was told when I was recruited that they wanted me to come to Lindsey Wilson and be a vital part of their national championship campaign,” McDonald recalled recently while home for summer break. “I had no idea it would come my freshman year. That was cool.”
Indeed, it was a little unexpected, but in fact, the Blue Raiders did go undefeated in 11 games last season in NAIA competition and won the national championship, 45-13, over Northwestern Iowa in a title game played in New Orleans.
“I mean, how cool was that,” McDonald continued. “I’ve always wanted to play football, you know that, and I started way back in Outlaws. When I got to LA, coach (Bruce) Lamb decided it was time to rebuild and he put me at quarterback, and with outstanding coaching from Danny McCoin, I managed to do pretty good. Over the next four years, I had just wonderful teammates that allowed us to set those records, and if there was any rough spots, it was our junior season when we were at 5-6 and it was all my fault. I take full responsibility for that season. I just wasn’t’ the leader I should have been that year. Next season was totally different, although I’m not real sure the 2018 team wasn’t as good at the 2019 team.”
After posting that 5-6 mark in 2018, McDonald and the Wildcats stormed back, posting a perfect 10-0 regular season and went 11-1 overall. With outstanding teammates like Wesley Smith, Aubrey Hollars, Cole Spears, Dustin Parrish, Nate Neely, Dexter Wright, and Tee Beaty, to name a few, the Cats breezed through the season while McDonald set the school’s total passing yardage record of 7,446 yards, threw for a record 75 career touchdowns, posted 2,432 yards in the season, a record, and passed for 6 touchdowns in one game, tying a record.
“Looking back, 2019 was a good season and I had some great teammates,” McDonald continued, “but I couldn’t imagine what was ahead. I knew I wanted to continue playing football, but I had to make several decisions. Luckily I made a couple good ones.”
McDonald credited his coaches, Lamb, McCoin, and basketball coach Jimmy Miller for any success he had.
“There are no better coaches than those right there anywhere in high school. All three are just outstanding,” he stated.
Lindsey Wilson is a small college in Columbia, KY, that is over 115 years-old, but its football program was young, starting only 10 years ago in 2010. The school was close enough to Livingston so his family could come watch him play, and, “I just liked the small school atmosphere,” McDonald added.
So when fall arrived in 2020, McDonald was off to Kentucky to continue his education and play more football.
“It didn’t take long to realize that college football is a lot different from high school,” he continued. “The coaches themselves are much like those I had at Livingston Academy, they were willing to work with players, understood mistakes, but wanted correction, and the work level was much more intense. Practice is a lot different, and for me, one of the first things they gave me was a playbook about this thick (about 2 inches) and expected me to know the plays in a hurry.”
Despite being a freshman, McDonald got right in on the practice action and it didn’t take but a minute to discover that this was a lot more complicated than high school.
“On my first snap, it was a pass play, and I found my receiver wide open and fired a shot. The receiver was in the clear, but the defensive linebacker was so much quicker than anything I was used to and he came across and made the interception. This isn’t quite as easy as I thought,” he responded.
Then the COVID-19 virus hit and suddenly, if he didn’t have enough to deal with, being a freshman, a quarterback trying to learn a new system, new coaches, new surroundings, new learning system, and every other thing that goes along with the freshman year, he had to adjust.
“That changed a lot of things,” McDonald went on. “Now we don’t have a fall football season, but one that is switched to winter and spring. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was.”
The virus changed several things on the team, including the number one quarterback was allowed to come back for another season and that was a big part of the championship program.
“College players are different from those in high school in that they don’t clown around with each other like we did, and for the most part, they are bigger, a different mindset, a completely new group of people to learn to deal with. “
McDonald pointed out that having that level of players back, despite the virus or because of it, made the national championship run highly possible.
With the number one quarterback returning, McDonald was moved to number three and will still be a freshman as far as eligibility is concerned this fall. He did manage to get in on three games last season, and the experience was most valuable.
“Taking that first snap in college was a nervous experience,” the well spoken freshman expressed. “But after it was over, things settled down. You have to take that first hit and get up and realize you aren’t dead,” he laughed. “Would you believe, I actually ran on one play?”
McDonald’s speed was never a comparison to his outstanding throwing arm.
In the national championship game, McDonald got in on the final three plays of the game so he could claim part of the crown, and he had just the right words for his coach and team.
“That showed me right there that they cared about me and I was part of the team,” he said. “It was a feeling I’ll always remember, and thank coach (Chris) Oliver for doing that. It was, in my opinion, a class act, and proved to me that I had made the right decision to come to Lindsey Wilson.”
McDonald will head back to school in early August to lay claim to his #2 quarterback slot and prove that the coaching staff at Lindsey Wilson made the right decision in picking him to lead the school to more championships. Meanwhile he will help his dad, Scott, work on the family farm.
“I need to get mentally stronger,” McDonald concluded, “and I need to get much more physically stronger. I’m about 6-4 right now, so I don’t think I’ll get much taller, but being mentally and physically ready is critical. I’ll work on both of those this summer. When I report back, I’ll be ready, and I really can’t’ wait to start. I simply love it.”
Lindsey Wilson is a member of the NAIA college affiliation. It is in the Mid-South Conference that includes Bethel College, Cumberland University of Lebanon, Georgetown of Kentucky, Thomas Moore University of the Cumberlands, (Kentucky) Pikeville and Campbellsville.