Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 8/31/12
LOS ANGELES --- Hes one half of USCs 7s Up duo, along with quarterback Matt Barkley. T.J. McDonald had a decision to make. Like his much heralded teammate and roommate last December, McDonald chose to return to school instead of entering the NFL Draft. As the leader of the Trojans defense, the USC two-time captain is living a dream. For the son of six-time All Pro and former Trojan, Tim McDonald, USC is neatly inserted into his earliest memories. By all accounts, he grew up a Trojan, twice. There was T.J. attending countless USC games with his family as a child. And then there was T.J., who just wrapped up his freshman season, when USC was hit with severe sanctions by the NCAA, including a two-year bowl ban. He watched as plenty of his teammates bolted. He stuck around. Now, in their first season post the bowl ban, the Trojans are the APs No.1 team in the nation and as McDonald puts it, theres no roof over their heads. The Trojans will enter their season opener against Hawaii on Saturday at 4:30pm on FOX as a national title favorite. He returned for his senior season not wanting the Emerald Bowl to be the extent of his bowling experience. He has aspirations for bigger and better things and is taking large steps to do so. T.J. McDonalds had a really good camp, said USC head coach Lane Kiffin. I think hes really taken his game to another level. I think hes going to have an All-American type year. McDonald has added 10 pounds to his listed 205-pound frame. Hes taken an even larger role in helping the newcomers, most notably Josh Shaw, a transfer from Florida. (Ive) been putting a lot of effort into teaching the guys, McDonald said. I think thats the best way to learn is to teach. All the young guys have been coming to me with questions and Ive been able to explain that to them. Its made me a much better player. Hes revered by his teammates for his leadership and work ethic. When I came here, I used to always just look at him because he reminded me of (former USC safety) Taylor Mays and he just had the Create-a-Player body, said linebacker Hayes Pullard. I was probably like 511 at the time, 205 (pounds). He looked like he was 66, 270 (pounds). I was like hes always working hard hes not even saying nothing. The coaches always mentioned his name and I always wanted to be that guy. For that guy, whos been a USC fan his whole life and speaks fondly of the first sweatsuit he ever received as a child which had a USC logo on it, Saturday's walk out of the tunnel at the Coliseum will be his last in a season opener. He realizes these are his last days wearing the Cardinal and Gold uniform. Its my last chance, McDonald said. I dont get no chances after this. So, for me, its just I got to make sure that I come out here every day with a purpose.
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