CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois wide receivers coach George McDonald discussed several topics in his Zoom media conference with statewide and local media after two days of spring practice.
McDonald was named assistant head coach/wide receivers coach at the University of Illinois on Jan. 20, 2021.
McDonald returns to his alma mater following six seasons at North Carolina State and with experience in three Power-5 conferences and the NFL.
McDonald began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Ball State before earning his first full-time position at Northern Illinois from 2001-03. While in DeKalb, he coached First-Team All-MAC receiver, and current Minnesota head coach, P.J. Fleck, second-team All-American Dan Sheldon, and All-American Darrell "The Thrill" Hill.
After a season at Stanford as tight ends coach in 2004 where he coached Mackey Award finalist Alex Smith, McDonald followed Bill Cubit from the Cardinal to Western Michigan as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach of the Broncos. Cubit later was interim head coach at Illinois in 2015. One of his players at WMU was 2005 MAC Player of the Year, Biletnikoff Award semifinalist and All-American Greg Jennings. McDonald then took a position on former Illini tight end Tim Brewster's first staff at Minnesota from 2007-08, where he coached First-Team All-Big Ten performer Eric Decker.
McDonald made the jump to the NFL's Cleveland Browns from 2009-10 as wide receivers coach under Eric Mangini. He then was named wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator at the University of Miami from 2011-12 under Al Golden. He was actually named the receivers coach at Arkansas under then-new head coach Bret Bielema in December 2012, but was offered the offensive coordinator position at Syracuse under former Illini assistant coach Scott Shafer a few weeks later where he spent the 2013-14 seasons. His six-year stint at NC State began in 2015 under former Bielema assistant Dave Doeren as wide receivers coach and has watched his role grow to passing game coordinator, co-offensive coordinator, and most recently as assistant head coach of the Wolfpack. Under McDonald's tutelage, for the first time in ACC history, NC State had a pair of wide receivers named to the All-ACC first-team in 2018 when Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers both topped 1,000 receiving yards. During his career, he has mentored 18 players who have gone on to play in the NFL.
McDonald was a four-year letterwinner at receiver for the Fighting Illini and completed his Illinois football career with 57 receptions for 589 yards and four touchdowns. He led the Big Ten in kickoff return yardage in 1996 (736) while returning 57 kickoffs for 1,276 yards (22.4 avg.) during his career. McDonald also ran track his freshman and senior years, earning All-Big Ten honors his senior year when he set an Illinois record with a time of 6.74 in the 60 meters, a mark that still ranks seventh on the Illini top times list, to win the 1999 Big Ten Indoor Championships 60-meter title.
Born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, McDonald graduated from Buena Vista High School in California before his collegiate career at Illinois where he played for Lou Tepper and Ron Turner, and was a teammate of Fighting Illini athletics director Josh Whitman. He earned his bachelor's degree in health planning and administration from Illinois in 1999.