Entering Organized Team Activities and training camp with the Miami Dolphins as a rookie, former IU offensive tackle Andrew McDonald wanted to work hard on the field, but he also made an impact off the field.
McDonald wanted to do some volunteer work while in Miami, so he approached Ilona Wolpin, senior director of community relations, who helps players get out into the community. McDonald is an animal lover, so he suggested a trip to somewhere like the Humane Society. She set him up for a visit to the Marti Huizenga Animal Care Center in Dania Beach, Fla.
Before heading there, McDonald decided it might be even better if he brought others with him.
“She set it up and it was just going to be me originally, so I’m like, let’s see if we can get some other guys,” McDonald said. “I went and talked to rookies, and it turned out to be pretty good because we got, like, 15 other guys. It was just really cool. There were a lot of little kids at the Humane Society, and we went there and these kids had been at a camp at the Humane Society.”
Upon arriving, McDonald instantly reached to pet a nearby dog when a little girl stopped him, saying there were health risks when petting the dogs and he needed to be careful.
McDonald found the interaction very funny, and he laughed as he recounted the moment.
“It was a good time,” McDonald said. “It turned out to be a pretty big hit. The kids liked it, and I know the players really liked it.”
It was another situation during which McDonald grew closer to his group of rookies, which include the Dolphins’ top draft pick Ryan Tannehill, a quarterback from Texas A&M and former Michigan State wide receiver B.J. Cunningham.
McDonald said the rookies have been hanging out together and have become close since they reported in May.
He has worked with Offensive Line Coach Jim Turner and teammates on improving his fundamentals and working to combat the speed of NFL defenses.
“It’s all really about technique, honing the technique that you need for this level of play,” McDonald said. “That’s the main thing that concerns me, things like the pass rush technique, getting out of my stance and staying vertical.”
McDonald, who now wears number 67 for the Dolphins instead of the 72 he donned for the Hoosiers before he graduated in December, returned to his home in Indianapolis on Friday and plans to see friends and family between workouts until he returns to Miami on July 25.
When he returns, McDonald and the rest of the rookies will face a similar challenge: earning a permanent spot on the team.
“You pretty much have to prove yourself,” McDonald said. “You haven’t been in any preseason games yet. I guess it’s expected because we really do have to prove ourselves, and all we can do is just practice with (the veteran players).”