Laurier Grads Soar is a multi-part series that has returned for the 2017-18 year. The segment features former Wilfrid Laurier University athletes and student-leaders in the Athletics and Recreation Department, and the success they have enjoyed since leaving Laurier. Written by award-winning journalist David Grossman, different features will be released throughout the year that will emphasize the role Athletics and Recreation played in helping them achieve success.
Kevin McDonald- CFL League Front Office Staff
Kevin McDonald vividly recalls the day his high school buddies said they were heading off to post-secondary studies in Ottawa and, while he thought about tagging along, instead made a bold decision to go in a different direction.
Looking back, a teenager from Kingston with glowing accomplishments as a multi-sport athlete in his teens, he was hooked on the sports reputation of Wilfrid Laurier University. Without as much as a visit to the campus, McDonald made up his mind to go west.
It was a move he said he would do again “in a heartbeat”.
“I remember pulling up, with my parents, and saw horses and buggies from nearby St. Jacob’s (a quaint village with a Mennonite heritage) and wondered about this small university,” said McDonald.
“It didn’t take me long to know that I had made the right decision. Being at Laurier, turned out to be something very special to me. In fact, after graduation, I found it very hard to leave.”
McDonald has many stories about his football days – from wanting to be part of a winning program to the Canadian university record he set and the dozens of lifetime friends.
To know McDonald, is to understand that football has been a huge part of his life – from those grade 9 days, where he first learned to play the gridiron game at Regiopolis/Notre Dame Secondary, to his current and important duties as Vice President of Football Operations and Player Safety with the Canadian Football League.
“I was a 5-foot-4, 114-pound kid filling out a registration form to play at school, since there was no community football in Kingston, and remember getting pounded in my tryout,” he said chuckling at his initiation to the game he adores.
A positive impact on others, and a product of supreme confidence, McDonald was also smart enough to realize that his chances of making the high school team were looking slim, so he asked the coaching staff to switch him to quarterback.
When he left high school, with his bravado being part of his brilliance, McDonald was among the top athletes – a city all-star, Junior and later Senior Athlete of the Year.
It was off to Laurier with, as all youngsters have, dreams and aspirations of, maybe, one day making it to the pros.
“I was a starter at Laurier for only two of my five years,” said McDonald, who went on to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education. “I realized that I wasn’t of the calibre to be a professional athlete, but wanted to learn more, play more, and after doing some coaching at Queen’s and Mount Allison went to Austria in 2000.”
As a Golden Hawk, McDonald has great memories of superb coaching, the camaraderie of teammates along with some difficult and disappointing losses playing on teams that were ranked among the best in Canada.
And there was also that special game for the former OUA all-star.
It was Nov. 2, 1996, McDonald set a CIAU (Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union) record with 74 pass attempts in one game, completing 37 for 500 yards in a cross-town match-up with the rival University of Waterloo. It’s a record that still stands.
“It’s a game I’ll never forget,” said McDonald, whose memory is as long as his limbs. “People still remind me of it – and that we lost, too, by a few points.”
The football itch continued for McDonald.
In 2001, instead of playing in the CFL, he joined the league front office staff and among his slew of achievements is improving relations with the CFL Players Association, improve the game with new health and safety measures as well as helping to grow the game at the amateur level.
David Grossman is a veteran award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 40+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.