Ray McDonald
No. 32
Position:Running back
Personal information
Born:(1944-05-07)May 7, 1944
McKinney, Texas
Died:May 4, 1993(1993-05-04) (aged 48)
Dallas, Texas
Height:6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight:248 lb (112 kg)
Career information
High school:Caldwell (ID)
NFL Draft:1967 / Round: 1 / Pick: 13
Career history
Career NFL statistics
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

Ray Douglas McDonald (May 7, 1944 – May 4, 1993) was a professional football player, a running back in the National Football League for the Washington Redskins for two seasons, from 196768.

Early life and high school

McDonald was born in McKinney, a segregated suburb of Dallas. After years in McKinney, he began high school in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and then moved to Caldwell, Idaho, after his sophomore year. A three-sport star for the Cougars for two years, he graduated from Caldwell High School in 1963.[1][2] At 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) and 220 lb (100 kg), he was a high school All-American and was compared to NFL great Jim Brown.

Career as college athlete

McDonald enrolled at the University of Idaho in Moscow in 1963 and his family moved north from Caldwell to nearby Lewiston.[1] On the mandatory freshman team his first semester, he led the Vandals to convincing wins over the freshman teams of Washington (32–18)[3] and Washington State (36–0).[4][5] (Freshmen were ineligible for NCAA varsity participation until the early 1970s.) McDonald missed the first three games of his sophomore season after tearing his Achilles tendon in a pick-up basketball game in late June.[6][7][8] As a speedy fullback for the varsity as a sophomore, he was dubbed "Thunder Ray" after his first Battle of the Palouse game[9][10] the first Vandal victory over neighboring WSU in a decade.[11] (Idaho repeated over the Cougars in Pullman in 1965 for the first time in forty years,[12][13] and would've swept three straight, but lost a late lead in the Moscow mud in 1966).[14][15]

As a senior in 1966, he led the nation in rushing with 1,329 yards, capping it with 255 yards in his final game.[16][17] At an imposing 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) and 248 lb (112 kg), he was the dominant player in the Big Sky Conference, and was the leading rusher for Idaho in all three years of eligibility (1964–66), averaging over 100 yards rushing per game for his collegiate career. He rushed for 36 touchdowns and 2,916 yards in 27 games played as a Vandal,[18][19] an average of 108 yards per game.

McDonald was timed in the 100-yard dash at 9.9 seconds and was a first-team All-American. He threw the shot put and discus[20][21] and was a national-class hurdler on the Vandal track team.

McDonald played both offense and defense in at the East–West Shrine Game,[22] as well as the piano at Shriners Hospital,[23] and saw significant playing time at fullback in the Senior Bowl the following week.[24]

Professional football career

He was selected in the first round of the 1967 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, the 13th overall pick, a personal choice by owner Edward Bennett Williams. He signed a three-year guaranteed contract for $100,000.

Personal life

In 1968, he was arrested by Washington, D.C. police for having sex with a man in public.[25] Injuries also played a part in cutting short his career and by 1969 he was out of pro football.

McDonald eventually became a junior high music teacher. After an extended battle,[26][27] he died of complications due to AIDS[28] at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, on May 4, 1993, three days before his 49th birthday, with a body weight less than half of his NFL playing weight. The cause of death was originally reported as complications from sickle cell anemia.[8][17][29][30]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Idaho-bound Ray McDonald family settling in Lewiston". Lewiston Morning Tribune. June 3, 1963. p. 9.
  2. ^ "Surprise, along came McDonald". Sports Illustrated: 55.
  3. ^ "Idaho frosh wallop U.W.; big Ron (Ray) star(s)". Spokesman-Review. October 26, 1963. p. 8.
  4. ^ Johnson, Bob (November 9, 1963). "McDonald sparks Idaho frosh win". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 8.
  5. ^ "Frosh football". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1964. p. 263. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  6. ^ "Ray pulls tendon". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. June 25, 1964. p. 10.
  7. ^ Uhrhammer, Jerry (October 7, 1964). "It's a long road back for Idaho footballer Ray McDonald". Eugene Register-Guard. p. 3C.
  8. ^ a b "Idaho great McDonald dies". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. May 7, 1993. p. 1B.
  9. ^ Missildine, Harry (October 26, 1964). "Thunder Ray McDonald greatest soph fullback". Spokesman-Review. p. 8.
  10. ^ Johnson, Bob (October 27, 1964). "Plenty of suggestions". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 15.
  11. ^ Missildine, Harry (October 25, 1964). "'Thunder Ray' leads Idaho's charge". Spokesman-Review. p. 1-sports.
  12. ^ Johnson, Bob (October 4, 1965). "Palouse back to normal; Idaho conquers Cougars". Spokand Daily Chronicle. p. 17.
  13. ^ "Football: Idaho 17 Washington State 13". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1966. p. 188. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  14. ^ Spoerhase, Jim (October 24, 1966). "Rally by Cougars trips Idaho 14–7". Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 17.
  15. ^ "Football: Idaho 7 Washington State 14". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1967. p. 234. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  16. ^ Payne, Bob (November 21, 1966). "Ray finishes as champion". Spokesman-Review. p. 11.
  17. ^ a b Boling, Dave (May 7, 1993). "'Thunder Ray,' UI great, dies". Spokesman-Review. p. C1.
  18. ^ Jacobson, Bryan (March 24, 1993). "McDonald rushes into Idaho Hall tonight". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. p. 1B.
  19. ^ "Idaho's Thunder Ray named latest athlete of month". Spokesman-Review. December 8, 1966. p. 20.
  20. ^ "Ray McDonald breaks two records in Big Sky meet". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. May 22, 1965. p. 9.
  21. ^ "Track". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1966. p. 206. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  22. ^ "McDonald will go both ways". Lewiston Morning Tribune. December 29, 1966. p. 15.
  23. ^ "Idaho Vandals' Ray McDonald big hit at Shriners' Hospital". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. December 23, 1966. p. 12.
  24. ^ Wilson, Mike (January 8, 1967). "Ray McDonald shows new twist". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 8.
  25. ^ Kroeger, Brooke (2004), Passing: When People Can't Be Who They Are, New York: PublicAffairs, p. 238, ISBN 1-58648-287-4
  26. ^ Boling, Dave (February 23, 1993). "Even illness cannot steal his thunder". Spokesman-Review. p. C1.
  27. ^ "Two Idaho greats due for honors". Spokesman-Review. March 24, 1993. p. C2.
  28. ^ Popkey, Dan (December 30, 2007), "Lives of three U of I stars unfolded very differently", Idaho Statesman, retrieved December 31, 2007
  29. ^ "Grid star McDonald dies". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. May 8, 1993. p. 1B.
  30. ^ "Obituaries: Ray Douglas McDonald". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. May 10, 1993. p. 3A.