Paul McDonald, Millennium Hall of Fame

October 07, 1999

Paul McDonald didn't need to be a member of USC's Beta Gamma Sigma

to realize his vulnerability in his first NFL start for the Cleveland


It was late November 1982 and the weather in Cleveland was nasty. Snow

turned to sleet, then to rain. Only five days earlier, former Browns

assistant coach Paul Hackett told McDonald he was getting the Sunday nod

against the Steel Curtain from Pittsburgh.


The four-time Super Bowl champions were still intact. Guys like Mean

Joe Greene, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount were still playing ferocious


McDonald, who always received the offensive plays from the sideline as

the USC quarterback for two years, was suddenly thrust into a situation

where he was expected to call the plays, while barely able to hold onto a

wet ball.

For a capper, Cleveland got the ball first that day, and as McDonald

walked up to the line, he looked around to check Pittsburgh's alignment.

Sure enough, there was Lambert staring at him with a merciless snarl.

"There was No. 58 with no teeth, and looking wild-eyed and wacko like

most middle linebackers do, and Lambert definitely was," McDonald said.

"I thought to myself, 'Well, you finally made it. Here you are and

there's no hole to crawl in.' So there I was, playing against a

historical team."

The Browns won the game, 10-9, and later made the playoffs that

season, in which McDonald threw two touchdown passes with no

interceptions in Cleveland's first-round loss against the Oakland Raiders

and his old USC teammate, tailback Marcus Allen.

While McDonald would start every game in the 1984 season and play

eight years in the NFL with Cleveland and the Dallas Cowboys, his

favorite gridiron moments consist of Rose Bowl victories and an NCAA

national championship in 1978.

McDonald, who set 17 NCAA, Pac-10 Conference and USC records as Coach

John Robinson's signal caller in 1978 and '79, was blessed with a golden

touch of a left throwing arm coming out of high-powered Bishop Amat High.

But strangers on the street wouldn't exactly see a quarterback chiseled

out of granite. He had height (6-foot-2), but McDonald was a

self-proclaimed "normal guy."

In an era featuring Heisman Trophy winners Allen and Charles White,

offensive linemen Brad Budde and Anthony Munoz, and defensive stars

Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Lott, McDonald played the perfect role for the

Trojans as the pitch man for Tailback U. who would kill opponents with

timing passes, like the game-winning, eight-yard touchdown pass to Kevin

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