Former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu‘s rapid descent from 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist to rehab and an uncertain future has been well-documented, but it doesn’t seem like UCLA safety Tevin McDonald was paying attention.
McDonald was dismissed from the Bruins football program for, of course, “violating team policy,” but given McDonald’s recent history of failed drug tests, it’s not hard to guess which policy became an issue.
A two-year starter from a top-notch football family — dad, Tim, was an All-American at USC and six-time Pro Bowler in the NFL, and older brother T.J. just finished a standout career with the Trojans — McDonald was suspended for the Bruins’ Holiday Bowl appearance, reportedly due to a third failed drug test.
After McDonald’s dismissal, the Los Angeles Times pointed out that under UCLA policy, a fourth failed drug test results in the loss of one’s scholarship, and it’s not too hard to connect the dots from there.
In his statement announcing McDonald’s exit from the program, Bruins’ head coach Jim Mora said: “I have known him since he was a young boy. On a personal level, it’s disappointing. I hope everything turns out well for him.”
The wording was vaguely reminiscent of LSU coach Les Miles‘ remarks in his press conference announcing Mathieu’s dismissal in August 2012, when the coach said he supported Mathieu, whom he deemed “a quality guy.”
What’s next for McDonald?
He could transfer to another program, but he might be better off following Mathieu’s path and addressing his drug usage before he worries about football.
Occasional drug use might not be a major issue for some, but if a college football player on a Division I scholarship repeatedly fails drug tests, even after being suspended for positive results, chances are he’s either stupid or he has a drug problem he’s unable to control on his own.
If McDonald is indeed struggling with substance abuse, maybe this will be a wake up call. He has, by all accounts, an involved, close-knit family, and he’ll likely get the same fierce support from his family as he gets back on track as he did on the football field all these years.
He has a more stable foundation and upbringing than Mathieu, and because the younger McDonald was never at Mathieu’s level on the field, he won’t have as many eyes on him as he begins to focus on any issues he might need to address.
College football already has plenty of disappointing stories of wasted talent and squandered opportunity, so here’s hoping that if McDonald needs help, he gets it, and if he doesn’t really need it, he’s able to find a place to finish his college football career.