WATCH: Nolan McDonald meets the media
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State tight end Camren McDonald fielded a number of scholarship offers out of high school, at least one from each time zone between Tallahassee and his hometown of Long Beach, Calif., and from such college football heavyweights as Southern California, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Florida and Miami.
McDonald could have played virtually anywhere, and he originally intended to go down the road to Southern California before he was presented with an opportunity that was simply too good to refuse.
A few weeks after Willie Taggart took over at Florida State in December 2017, McDonald received an offer to join the rebuilding Seminoles.
Not only that, but Taggart also had room for McDonald’s older brother Nolan, a year older and a quarterback that had been recruited to the Air Force Academy, to join the team as a walk-on.
For Camren and Nolan McDonald, moving 2,000 miles from home was a small price to pay if it meant playing college football together.
“A blessing, really,” said Camren McDonald, now a sophomore. “The fact that it happened is crazy.”
“Obviously coming to college with my brother has always been a dream of mine, since youth football,” Nolan McDonald added. “So I would say that had a big affect.”
The McDonald brothers aren’t just happy to be here, either.
Each has an opportunity for a big impact with the 2019 Seminoles, Camren as a tight end/receiver hybrid in coordinator Kendal Briles’ high-speed offense; and Nolan as perhaps the top backup behind veteran James Blackman.
Taggart has brought in several quarterbacks over the last few weeks – there should be six signal-callers in the room this fall – but none of them have the experience on Florida State’s campus that Nolan McDonald does.
Nor have they gone semi-viral for a play they made on the FSU practice fields.
What’s the best part of this play?
The shiftiness? ⚡️
The block? 💥
The front flip? 🤸🏼♂️
Or, the celebration? 🎊
— MaxPreps (@MaxPreps) October 23, 2018
Everything about the play – the vision, the elusiveness, the speed – shows that McDonald is anything but a typical walk-on.
“First and foremost, he’s a playmaker,” Camren McDonald said of his brother. “When the ball is in his hands, he’s liable to tuck it and run and go score from any position on the field. He can throw the ball to any position on the field. He can place the ball on the dot 15 yards down the middle of the field or 60 yards down the field to the perimeter. I feel like he’s a complete quarterback.”
Added sophomore cornerback Asante Samuel Jr.: “He’s a ‘scholarship’ type of guy. … He could easily start at another Division I college.”
As it stands, McDonald is embracing his role in spring practice – which is to push the incumbent Blackman as much as possible while also leading the second-team offense.
“The coaches, from Day 1, they believed in me,” Nolan McDonald said. “They saw what I could do, whereas a lot of other schools didn’t. So, I came here. And I love the choice I made. I love being a Nole.”
Camren McDonald, meanwhile, might be the only player on the roster with his blend of abilities and physical attributes.
Officially a tight end, McDonald stands at 6-foot-4, 229 pounds – about 15 pounds lighter than fellow tight ends Tre’ McKitty and Gabe Nabers but also about 20 pounds heavier than big receivers such as Tamorrion Terry and Keith Gavin.
Which means that McDonald could line up virtually anywhere on a given play and, at times this spring, he has – whether at the traditional tight end spot next to the tackle, in the slot, or even occasionally out wide.
“I feel like I create matchups that are hard for defenses to adjust to,” said McDonald, noting that he models his game after NFL tight ends such as Travis Kelce and receivers such as Mike Evans.
“… I’m just one of those guys that’s a big body, that can run across the middle of the field and catch that pass and take that hit and hop up and be ready to play the next play, rather than being shaken up because I’m too light.”
The McDonalds are far from the first set of brothers to play at Florida State, but they’re the first in a while.
And being in Tallahassee at the same time sets them apart even further. Some of the more notable pairs – Peter and Michael Boulware, or Roberto and Ricky Aguayo, for example – played without their careers overlapping.
But, as has been the case for their entire lives, the stories of Camren and Nolan McDonald will be told together.
“That’s something that I thank God for every day,” Camren McDonald said. “Coming to Florida from California is a big culture shock, so having someone that’s been with you your whole life and really been your best friend your whole life move with you is a blessing. I couldn’t really ask for more.”