Safety Tevin McDonald is only a redshirt freshman, but he's been around football long enough to know a thing or two about the game.
His father, Tim, played for the Cardinals and 49ers in the NFL and was also the high school coach at Edison High in Fresno, where Tevin and older brother, T.J., a standout safety at USC, played.
Still, he got a bit wide-eyed when he stepped on the field last Saturday at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore., for UCLA's game against Oregon State. McDonald was making his first career start.
"It was exciting," McDonald said. "I found myself just trying to soak it all in, looking up at the crowd and soaking it all in. This has been my dream so I felt like I was really living it out."
It didn't take long for him to get his feet wet. Oregon State sniffed out the rookie and threw a pass his way on the first play. It fell incomplete. On the next play, the Beavers ran to his side of the field and McDonald got involved in the play. And on the fifth play, McDonald got a tackle.
"They went after me the first two plays so I got my first contact and I was into the game," he said. "It didn't feel too big. I felt like I knew what I was doing out there and I just went back to what I've been doing on the practice field."
McDonald (6-0, 195) got the start in place of injured Tony Dye, a team captain who led the team in tackles last season. McDonald finished the game with a respectable five tackles and figures to get on the field more often, even when Dye returns.
"He’s up to it," defensive coordinator Joe Tresey said. "He grew up in a football family and so he’s been around it his whole life. That helps tremendously. It’s kind of like a coaches kind, a players’ kid. You’ve been in the environment your whole life so you understand the culture. That makes things a lot easier when you have been in the culture."
McDonald shined all last season as a scout team player and continued to impress during spring practice. He's been working at free safety and nickel back because of his good coverage ability as well as his sure tackling. Dye sat out last week with shoulder stinger issues and has been limited in practice this week, but expects to return Saturday against Stanford. If he can't, he knows his position is in good hands.
"Tevin looks great right now," Dye said "I’m probably going to have to fight for my job when I get back."