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Ivy League or bust for Clearwater Central Catholic LB Tyler McDonald

Tyler McDonald of Clearwater Central Catholic has narrowed his college choices to a group of Ivy League schools, or Army.
Published Jul. 27, 2016

Clearwater Central Catholic's Tyler McDonald wants to go to a college with an outstanding and well-deserved reputation for academics.

In other words, he wants the Ivy League.

McDonald also would like to play football wherever he goes.

Turns out, McDonald can do both.

The Marauders linebacker, who is on pace to be the school's valedictorian for the 2017 class, has 10 offers to play college football, five from Ivy League schools (Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale).

"It's always been kind of a dream to either go to an Ivy League school or play big-time college football," McDonald said. "Now I have a lot of great opportunities to combine the two."

McDonald always had the book smarts. He has made straight A's since elementary school. He enters his senior year with a 4.5 weighted grade-point average. His test scores are just as impressive with 34 on the ACT (36 is perfect) and 1,430 on the SAT (on a 1,600 scale).

If McDonald stays on track, he will become the second football player at CCC to be named valedictorian. Anthony Walker was the first in 2014.

McDonald has remained No. 1 in his class for three years — all while tackling a rigorous academic curriculum of honors and advanced-placement courses.

What made it even more difficult was that McDonald had to juggle what seemed like an endless amount of homework with football practices and games.

Often McDonald gets home from practice at 8 p.m. Then he does homework until about 10:30.

"It's pretty difficult," McDonald said. "The weekdays are long, basically around-the-clock. And the weekends are spent preparing for the week ahead in football and school."

It is a year-round balancing act between sports and academics. McDonald also plays soccer in the winter and runs track in the spring.

Football, though, is where he thrives. Last season, McDonald had 101 tackles, three forced fumbles and two sacks.

"It's no secret Tyler is one of the most intelligent football players to ever come out of this school," coach Chris Harvey said. "It's a good combination to be smart and a field general. Being book smart doesn't always translate well to the football field. But Tyler knows the game and understands what we're trying to do.

"We count on him to help put us in the right situation on defense."

McDonald also kicks. Last season, he made 5 of 6 field goals, including one from 45 yards.

This year, McDonald is in competition with his brother, Preston, a junior.

Preston has matched his brother's pristine record when it comes to grades.

"It's one of the smartest families I know," Harvey said.

Once the season is finished, McDonald will have the difficult task of deciding on which school to attend. He has narrowed it down to the Ivy League schools and Army.

"There's so many excellent ones to choose from," McDonald said. "It's going to come down to where I feel most comfortable."

Notable commitments: In the past week, several of Tampa Bay's top athletes have made their college choices known. Clearwater Central Catholic athlete CJ Cotman verbally committed to Tennessee. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Cotman, a four-star recruit by many services, is being recruited by the Vols as a defensive back. USF landed 6-4, 301-pound Jefferson offensive lineman Jean Marcellus, a three-star prospect. And Clearwater running back Adarius Lemons (6-0, 195), who rushed more than 1,000 yards last season, picked Florida.

Contact Bob Putnam at bputnam@tampabay.com. Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.

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