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Huskies' McDonald's Order Comes In a Sack

The outside linebacker from Texas has held his own so far in the UW's slow start.
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Read the Internet postings and you come away with the impression the University of Washington football team should be disbanded and Husky Stadium cut up and sold for parts.

Then Cooper McDonald enters the room and he's like a fire hose that, if for just a few minutes, washes away all the negativity.

Meeting with the media for the first time in his brief Husky career, the second-year freshman edge rusher from Haslet, Texas, is loud and engaging, hardly shy, no novice when put on the spot.

"How's everyone doing today?" McDonald asks enthusiastically once he sits down, not unlike a game-show host.

Speaking with the 6-foot-3, 245-pound defender, one would never know his football team is 0-2 and scorned by a large segment of the fan-based populace, which can't contain its displeasure.

McDonald won perhaps the most competitive UW position battle entering the season — the right to replace injured All-Pac-12 selection Zion Tupuola-Fetui for at least a half season or maybe more. He earned the job in a prolonged spring and fall camp competition with 5-star recruit Sav'ell Smalls, highly touted Bralen Trice and Texas A&M transfer Jeremiah Martin. 

He's one of five Texans on the UW roster, one of four one-time college-football-playing members of his family. 

His father, Mike, was a defensive tackle for Arkansas State, the UW's opponent on Saturday at Husky Stadium, while his oldest brother, Colton, likewise played linebacker for the Red Wolves. Yet another older brother, Caden, starts at linebacker for San Diego State and is considered the top player at his position in the Mountain West.

Cooper McDonald boldly moved the farthest from home, choosing the Huskies over Baylor, Colorado, Utah and others. He felt the UW would provide him with the best avenue to pro football. 

"You can see all of the current Dawgs who are in the NFL," he said. "That's my next goal is to get to the next level, to get to the NFL, and I believe in this coaching staff, that they can do that."

Cooper McDonald arrives at practice.

Cooper McDonald carries a 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame as an edge rusher.

McDonald played in three games in reserve as a true freshman and he's started a pair now. While nearly everyone else's performance has been roundly picked apart, he's received solid marks for upholding his duties on the outside.

"Obviously with ZTF going down, I hated seeing that, but like Coach [Jimmy] Lake always says, it's next man up and I took advantage of the opportunity and now I'm here," he said. "It doesn't mean I'm going to stop. I'm going to keep going, grinding, and try to be the best I can be and try to be the biggest impact on this team." 

While he's an outside linebacker, McDonald is confident he's versatile enough to move inside if needed and become a hybrid player. Since arriving at the UW, he's become noticeably bigger, stronger and faster, and says he has no problem running sideline to sideline. 

He possesses the Huskies only sack so far in eight quarters, collecting it against Montana, and he came up with a quarterback hit against Michigan, which is what he plays for.

"I just came off the ball and I was, 'Oh I'm one-on-one with the running back, I better win this,' " McDonald said. "I won it, came off and hit the quarterback. It was a good feeling, hearing the crowd kind of [go] oooooh. It was pretty nice."

Cooper McDonald lifts a huge amount of weight, encouraged by his teammates.

Cooper McDonald strains to lift a huge amount of weight. 

As for the Husky downturn that has the fans wound so tight, the young Texan dismissed it as just football, that it happens. He doesn't have any time to dwell on it. He's too busy working to make himself a great player. 

While there are conflicting reports on his past relationship with Arkansas State, whether or not the Red Wolves offered him a scholarship or not, Cooper acknowledged that the family connection to the Sun Belt school is enough motivation for him.

"That's my dad's alma mater," he said. "Hopefully we can put the smack on them."

Drawing laughs, this positive-energy guy slapped two hands on the table, smiled once more and made an upbeat departure. Ten minutes with McDonald makes you forget the Huskies are scuffling. OK, everyone back to banging their heads on the wall. 

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