"Senior Tackle" is the annual tradition where each senior runs through the
tackling dummy for the final time and a player talks about that senior.
The player is followed by the position coach taking a few minutes to speak
about the senior.
Defensive end Derrick Harvey took a few minutes to speak about Ray McDonald. Defensive Co-Coordinator Greg Mattison then spoke about
"Oh, you know man, I had to shed a few tears. It's been a long road for
me. I shed a few tears. I cried a little bit. I think that I probably was
one of the only ones that did. I saw a few of my teammates try to hold
back a few tears, but I just let mine rip out. I was thinking about my
surgeries just leaving my teammates and my coaches. I was thinking about
all of that and started crying.”
McDonald has had a terrific career for the Gators. However, it has been
one that has forced him to overcome injuries and battle through painful
rehab sessions to earn his way back onto the gridiron. McDonald had
corrective ACL surgery on both knees last season.
"I have the utmost respect for what he's done," Mattison said last summer.
"I can't say enough. I've had guys who had one ACL and had tough times
coming back, especially guys that had such high goals and had so much
talent. He's a guy who has had both of them fixed and is really on track
to do it all."
McDonald accomplished the feat. However, he suffered a dislocated ulnar
ligament in the Arkansas game a month ago. Once again, McDonald responded
and got back in the game.
Still, he is appreciative of Florida head coach Urban Meyer's friendship
during those trying times.
"Coach Meyer was there with me the whole way (after the knee surgeries),"
McDonald said. "I ate with him a few times, and his family, when I was on
crutches. He was there for me everyday. Anytime I needed something, he was
always there. He gave me his wife's number, that says a lot about him. He
said that anytime I needed anything and if I couldn't get in contact with
him to call her. He was just there for me everyday."
The Belle Glade native enters the BCS National Championship Game with 134
tackles, including 25.5 tackles for loss and 11 quarterback sacks. Through
his leadership, McDonald has demonstrated how to live right through injury
to the young Gators that dominate the Florida roster.
"All the preparations are done. We have a little walk through tomorrow to
make sure everybody is in tune and everything. We're just ready to play
"It's going to be real emotional. I've thought about it what it's going to
be like when everyone runs out there together and we see everybody in the
stands and know that we're playing for the national championship.”
Without the leadership provided by Ray McDonlad they might not have that