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July 9, 2010

Where are they now?: 'Lee McDonald'

Former Rutgers kicker Lee McDonald may be best remembered for his game-winning field goal that came at the tail end of the 1999 season against Syracuse. The 25-yard field goal capped off a 24-21 overtime upset of the Orange in front of a national television audience. It was also Rutgers' first win of that season as the 0-9 Scarlet Knights upended a 6-3 bowl eligible Syracuse squad.

"I feel fortunate to have had that opportunity," said McDonald, who was a two-time All-Conference selection at Rutgers. "How many guys get carried off the field in their last home game in their college career? Right place, right time, right opportunity."

McDonald's kicking career would extend beyond his college days, but not for very long. The next year, he managed to catch on with Norfolk Nighthawks of the Arena Football League 2.

In his eighth game with the Nighthawks, injury struck and put an end to his kicking career.

"I tore my ACL going after a guy on a kickoff," said McDonald. "I played safety and quarterback in high school and I never shied away from being hit. About a year later when I was trying to come back, I tore my quad muscle. It was extremely difficult. It's like anything else, when something you love is taken away from you, there's a void there."

McDonald attempted to fill that void by returning to Rutgers, where he finished up his courses to earn a Master's Degree in Education. Right about that time, a new coach named Greg Schiano had just taken over the Rutgers football program.

And it was then that McDonald hopped on board as part of the RU staff.

"Technically, I was a GA working with academic support with the football program," said McDonald. "And eventually, I got hired as an academic advisor working with football."

McDonald continued in that role for three years.

"I was there at the beginning when a lot of the building blocks were set in place for what you see now with the Academic Progress Rate," said McDonald. "It was driven by Coach Schiano but I was one of the worker bees, if you will, that helped put that stuff together."

McDonald left Rutgers to become a school counselor at North Brunswick High School where he also coached special teams for the next five years. McDonald explained the reason for that move.

"I met my wife, who is an elementary school teacher. I didn't want to be in the position where I had to move around a lot. At the college level, whether you're a coach or an administrator, if you want to move up you really have to travel around the country."

McDonald is now the supervisor of guidance Manalapan High School and lives in Manalapan with his wife and two children. But it was another venture that has been able to fill the void that was left when his kicking career came to a sudden end.

That venture actually began back when he first joined the staff at Rutgers.

"While I was there, Coach Schiano asked me to come out a couple of times and work with the kickers and help them out; nothing official," said McDonald. "I did that a few times and I enjoyed doing it. It was great just helping guys out and I was able to point some things out. And the guys got a lot out of it."

That spawned an idea that would begin to take shape the following spring.

"I was talking to my buddy Charlie Titus who was the punter when I was the kicker at Rutgers," said McDonald. "We put together a clinic in North Brunswick and the Monroe area and it just kind of grew into this thing where people were asking us to train privately and it just kind of blossomed."

Together with Titus, McDonald formed Special Teams Solutions and started to run specialists camps and clinics all over the Northeast.

"Now we're running camps as for north as Boston and as far south as Raleigh, North Carolina," said McDonald. "We probably run about fifteen events a year and we also run the Rutgers specialists camp. It's a full-time second job."

Nowadays, dozens of college coaches routinely contact McDonald for his thoughts and opinions on various kickers, punters and long-snappers.

"We put out a lot of information to college coaches," said McDonald. "Most college coaches are experts at whatever they coach, but there are very few out there that know kicking and punting. They want to consult someone who knows it and has the insight."

Not long after the high of McDonald's memorable kick against Syracuse came the dramatic low of realizing that he would never play again. But the sport he has cherished for so long has still been able to fill the empty feeling that set in when injury took away his playing days.

"I filled the void by still staying connected to the sport and involved with it and helping other kids that want to do the same thing I did. That is to have the chance to play at the college level, be a good high school player and beyond. We've been able to help hundreds of kids. That's priceless."



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Check out Bobby Deren's book on the NFL Draft entitled DRAFT SEASON: Four months on the clock.


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