There is a well-known saying or proverb: Strike while the iron is hot!
The importance of momentum is an unheralded factor heading into the early stages of the NFL Draft season.
“Dare I say, on fire,” a phrase made culturally popular by former ESPN host Dan Patrick.
It perfectly sums up Florida State’s hot tight end Camren McDonald.
McDonald came to Orlando, Florida to participate in the Tropical Bowl. His remarkable performances throughout the practice week led him to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Los Angeles, California.
“I just want to thank the people at the Tropical Bowl because they have believed in me since the season started,” McDonald said. “I spoke to the game directors today and they were very supportive.”
The staff encouraged McDonald to capitalize on his strong practice week in Orlando, even though he was unavailable to play in the Tropical Bowl game.
“I’ll try to put on a show at the NFLPA Bowl,” McDonald said. “The Tropical Bowl was a wonderful event. I loved spending time in Orlando. I’m excited about this process.”
The process wasn’t easy for the Seminoles tight end before he attended the prestigious Long Beach Poly High School. After his graduation, ESPN and Rivals ranked him a consensus four-star prospect and the highest-rated tight end in the state of California heading to the state of Florida, but it wasn’t easy.
McDonald told the NFL Draft Bible that his early days of playing Pop Warner’s pee pee weren’t exactly the stuff of legend.
“I definitely wasn’t,” said the team’s star McDonald. “It was a process to get to this point because it was like a daily routine every day. I had to get better, but that’s when I fell in love with the game.
“I wasn’t the best player on the team, but that’s when I learned that hard work can get you where you want to go. Without those experiences, he wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today.”
McDonald’s NFL trajectory began to materialize after former NFL player and Long Beach Poly head coach (2014-17), Antonio Pierce, informed McDonald that his days as a receiver were over. The move to tight end turned out to be the right decision for the current linebackers coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.
“Right when he told me, I was totally on board,” McDonald said. “He let me know that I was supposed to be a tight end. I’m happy to play this position now just because of the versatility I can bring to an NFL roster.”
Those early stages at Long Beach Poly helped ease McDonald’s thought process of playing professional football. The school is an absolutely powerful program, and his DNA runs abundantly through the veins of the NFL.
“The high school I played for has a lot of NFL history,” McDonald said proudly. “We have the most professional sports athletes in history or the second most NFL players of all time. So there is something in the walls of Long Beach Poly High School that propels people into the NFL.
“To be a standout there and then go to the state of Florida. With the people who are in my corner. Willie McGinest. JuJu Smith-Schuster. Anthony Pierce. All those people with NFL pedigrees who believed in me.
“TJ Houshmandzadeh. The list goes on and on. When those people believe in me. It somehow instills a belief in myself. That’s when I knew I could do it.”
The Seminoles have no shortage of incredible athletes who have donned the maroon and gold. Getting the most out of those players reflects that the coaching staff enables athletes to succeed both as a team and individually.
Since 2017, Florida State has had a carousel of coaches.
Beginning with the departure of Jimbo Fisher in 2017, interim Odell Haggins coached his final two games, followed by two seasons under Willie Taggart and currently under Mike Norvell.
The Seminoles’ offense wasn’t exactly the offensive giant of old with Charlie Ward, Peter Warrick and Lavernues Coles.
In 2021, running back Jashaun Corbin led the team with 25 receptions. McDonald was tied for second with 24 catches. Five players with 20+ receptions showed the ball was being distributed evenly but not abundantly either.
He is an example of the offensive philosophy at Florida State.
McDonald was not going to be force-fed the ball. His pass-catching ability and his playmaking ability would be limited by the volume of balls thrown his way. The staggering headline-grabbing stats wouldn’t be available in the Seminoles’ current playbook.
The Tropical Bowl’s quick claim to the NFLPA game is proof that there is much more to their game than modest production and legacy.
“I just have dynamic playmaking ability at the tight end position,” McDonald said. “I mean how humiliating.”
He is as humble as he is kind. He praises Long Beach Poly High School and Florida State. He embraces the legacy of the shows and fondly identifies those who have come before him. So when he mentions ‘humiliate’, it’s the most sincere response.
“I really know what I can do,” McDonald says of his skill set on the field.
“I’m a master of second level blocking and even online or perimeter blocking. I can push DBs around. I’m a big, longer guy, so it’s hard for linebackers to get around me.”
The tight end position is always weighed between being able to block in the running game and being a viable option in the team’s passing attack. The combination of being able to do both is a huge advantage in making a living in the NFL.
“But when it comes to receiving the ball,” McDonald said. “I really feel that I have the elite traits in the position.
“Quickness in short areas. The ability to get out of the line of scrimmage and make contested receptions. A great body to send down the middle.
“I look at guys like Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews and what they can do on Sundays, and I know my skill set is a perfect fit for what those teams are asking them to do.
“I’m the type of person who’s going to be a member of the four-course special team. I’m a special team guy. I can run down on punts or return punts. Kick off or kick off returns and have an immediate impact in those areas. I just know that I’m going to be able to fit into an NFL team organization and be a company man. Someone who doesn’t go against the grain and just does things the right way.”
The 6-foot-4, 243-pound tight end has also proven to be a durable commodity during his college career.
“The best skill is availability,” McDonald said.
“During the five-year season at Florida State, I managed to play in every game I was in except one. That was my first game in my true freshman year when we played Virginia Tech. That was the only game at Florida State where I didn’t play any snaps.
“Since then, for five seasons and three seasons as a starter. I also spent two seasons as a special teams starter. I didn’t miss a game at Florida State. I didn’t have any major injuries. It can be attributed to the way I take care of my body.”
McDonald’s credits both the Florida State medical staff for their “incredible work” and their own commitment to fitness to prevent serious and ongoing injuries. He earned his yoga certification in 2020, which has helped preserve and understand his body as he progresses to the NFL.
Talking to Camren, he sends enthusiastic greetings to anyone who has helped him reach this pinnacle of his life. They are gracefully adorned with gratitude.
When the subject of NFL Combine prep training entered the conversation.
It was only fitting that McDonald’s would once again show an overwhelming sense of appreciation for Bommarito Performance Systems.
“I can’t speak highly enough of what they’ve done to my body in the short time since I’ve been there,” McDonald said.
“The medical staff you have at that facility is top notch. What Pete (Bommarito) does in the speed department and how he has already helped me with my forty techniques. I’m excited to get back there and work.
“I’m so excited that he even asked me out. I was honest and humble. Shout out to Pete Bommarito and all his staff. Marco (Arevalo), Jeff Crutcher, a shout out to those guys doing a phenomenal job.”
The best description of McDonald’s breakthrough is this.
An extremely likable individual whose game has been percolating at Florida State for the past five years. He’s been dripping and dripping little drops of general skills from him.
It looks like his game is about to boil over to reveal one of the most talented tight ends available in the 2023 NFL Draft class.