The STRENGTH is BACK


Florida defensive end Ray McDonald lays on Florida Field after being injured in the Sept. 17 game against Tennessee. After two surgeries, McDonald is 100 percent cleared to play.

Sun file
Published: Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.

Facts

The McDonald file

  • Name: Ray McDonald
  • Position: Def. end
  • Class: Senior
  • Jersey: No. 95
  • Height/weight: 6-foot-3/280 pounds
  • Hometown/High school: Belle Glade/Glades Central
  • Starting: A three-year starter who has seen action in 31 games, starting 22.
  • Career highs: Tackles - 12 (Kentucky, 2003); QB sacks - 2 (Florida State, 2004); Forced fumbles - 1 (twice, last vs. Florida State, 2003).
  • He said it: "I'm pretty confident that there will be no problem and the first hit won't bother me." - On coming back to the Gators after surgery on both knees

  • After serious knee injuries, Ray McDonald is ready to show how strong his is now
    Learning that reconstructive knee surgery is required is a devastating blow to any athlete. Finding out it is needed not just on one knee, but both, takes it beyond devastation
    It left Ray McDonald numb. "When Dr. Pete (Indelicato) told me, I just sat there and started crying," said the Florida defensive end. "Coach (Urban) Meyer and all the coaches were in the room. It was like, 'Dang, I can't believe this. Both knees.' It was a numb feeling."
    Being a competitor, McDonald didn't let the tears and numbness stay for long. A few minutes after hearing the news, he chased away the tears and stoically started looking ahead.
    "I was listening to Dr. Pete and I thought, 'This is going to be a challenge for me,' " he said. "I just started thinking about what I had to do. Once I realized we have the best trainers in the world and they'd help get me healthy, I knew I could do it. I said, 'It's time to man up and take care of business.' "
    That he has. A little more than six months after undergoing his second surgery, McDonald is healthy again and looking forward to the start of a new season and a new beginning in his UF career. His knees feel sturdy and strong again.
    "I think my knees are right where they were a year ago," said the senior from Belle Glade. "There are some days when they're sore, but once I get warmed up and get going they feel good. The strength is back where it was."
    McDonald said he has been strenuously rehabilitating both knees since coming off crutches two weeks following his second operation. He said he's worked out his knees every day. Because he's had to rehab both at the same time, each session has lasted about two hours.
    He started running again in the spring. This summer, he's been doing the same things all the other players are doing in the weight room and in conditioning drills.
    "Ray has done an excellent job," defensive line coach Greg Mattison said. "The doctors and the strength coaches have done a super job getting his knees rehabbed. Ray is really, really upbeat. He's lifting. He's doing everything. He's 100 percent cleared (to play).
    "It's a real credit to Ray and the doctors and strength coaches. I've never heard of a guy having surgery on both knees basically at the same time (in McDonald's case, a month apart). I have seen a lot of guys come back from one and they are stronger. There's some proof (that McDonald has done the same with two)."
    Mattison said McDonald's next big test will come when he starts hitting - and getting hit - during two-a-days in August.
    "He's strong, he can run again," Mattison said. "Now, psychologically, what's going to happen the first time someone hits him? That's the next hurdle. If Ray is 100 percent healthy, the sky is the limit. In all the years I've been coaching defensive linemen, he may be as good as any I've been around. But I've never seen that for a whole game."
    McDonald says he's confident his knees will hold up and he'll have a memorable senior season - the kind of season he appeared headed for in 2005 before he injured his knee against Tennessee in the third game.
    "I'm pretty confident that there will be no problem and the first hit won't bother me," he said. "I'm real excited. I'm looking forward to going back out there and finishing what I started last season. I plan to pick up where I left off."
    McDonald moved from defensive tackle to end last year during two-a-days and showed the potential to be a devastating pass rusher and run stopper at his new position. Then he injured his knee early in the UT game and missed the next three games. He saw limited playing time during the second half of the season and then injured his other knee in the final game against FSU.
    "My cleat got stuck in the ground rushing the quarterback (against FSU) and I hyperextended my knee. I heard it pop," McDonald said.
    Ten days later, McDonald underwent surgery on one of his knees. About a month later, his other knee went under the knife.
    "It's been bad, but not as bad as everyone thought it was going to be," McDonald said. "The first two months were hard, but I've just been working and rehabbing and it hasn't been all that bad."
    Now, McDonald is ready to start playing again.
    "I thought a lot of great things were going to happen last season, but it didn't work out that way," he said. "Now, I think something good is going to come out of it this season. I can't wait."
    Robbie Andreu can be reached at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com

    Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

    Comments are currently unavailable on this article

    ▲ Return to Top