St. Louis Rams receiver Shaun McDonald lives two doors down from interim head coach Joe Vitt, but that’s not why the third-year pro from Arizona State is on pace for the best season of his short career.
Injuries to the Rams’ receiving corps this season have given McDonald more chances to get on the field and, at least to some degree, the Phoenix Shadow Mountain High graduate has taken advantage.
On the bright side, he’s on pace to catch 50 passes for more than 600 yards this season after hauling in 37 passes for 494 yards last year. However, he hasn’t added much to the Rams’ struggling return game and lost critical fumbles in losses to the Giants on a reverse and the Seahawks on a punt return.
"I think when I’m given the opportunity, I’m making the plays," said McDonald, who has 28 catches for 345 yards heading into today’s game against the Cardinals. "It’s good to be in there the whole game and be involved. (Starting) is what I’m working towards. I think it’s a little preview."
When they drafted McDonald as a junior in the fourth round of the 2003 draft, the Rams presented him with an opportunity to put up big numbers in "the Greatest Show on Turf" offense. He and third-round pick Kevin Curtis were to replace free agent-tobe Az-Zahir Hakim, a quick but undersized third receiver and returner on both Rams’ Super Bowl teams.
Neither has replaced Hakim alone, but they’ve both shown potential in three seasons. While Curtis is the more complete receiver and could start for many teams, McDonald’s future is probably as a third receiver.
Both players have started this year, though, as stars Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt have combined to miss seven games due to injury. The Rams are still third in the league in passing yards per game, partially due to the members of the 2003 draft class.
"They have both been here three years now, and I think if (the injuries occurred) at this time last year, we would have had to scale the offense back," Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said. "But we don’t have to do that anymore."
Though he’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season, McDonald felt comfortable enough with his position to purchase his first home in the St. Louis suburb of St. Peters.
His lawn care practices — or lack thereof — resulted in a bit of good-natured ribbing from Vitt.
"He used to get on me for my grass," McDonald said. "When I was out of town for the offseason, I didn’t really water it so it was a little dead. . . . (The homeowners association) cut my grass, so I thought they’d do everything. It was just a little miscommunication."
Shaun McDonald’s junior season at Arizona State was one for the record books. Here’s a look at the top three seasons in three statistical categories in ASU history.
McDonald 87 (2002) Derek Hagan 83 (2004) Hagan 68 (2005)
Receiving yards (season)
McDonald 1,405 (2002) Hagan 1,248 (2004) Morris Owens 1,144 (1973)
Touchdown receptions (season)
Doug Allen 14 (1984) McDonald 13 (2002) Steve Holden 12 (1972)