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Breaking back into the game

After breaking his tibia and fibula last year, Mike McDonald has re-emerged as Southern Oregon's quarterback.

August 27, 2011|By Jeff Tully, jeff.tully@latimes.com

From the intense pain radiating from his left leg, Mike McDonald knew that he had suffered a serious injury. But he had no idea how bad it really was.

As he lay on the turf clutching his leg, McDonald peered through the face mask of his football helmet to get a better look at the damage. He wasn't prepared for what he saw.

"The pain wasn't really that bad until I actually looked down at my leg, and my foot was facing way to the left when it should have been straight," said McDonald, a Burbank High graduate, who also played at Glendale Community College. "When I went to pull my leg up, from the shin down it was just dangling there. It kind of shocked me a little bit."

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The injury occurred less than a year ago when McDonald, 24, was the starting quarterback at Southern Oregon University, a National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics school in Ashland, Ore. The Raiders were playing their fourth game of the season, a home opener Sept. 25, 2010 against Menlo College.

McDonald, who entered the game ranked fifth in the NAIA in passing yards, had piloted Southern Oregon to a 2-1 record to start the season.

However, on the second series of the game, McDonald threw an interception and tried to run down the defender who had just snagged his attempt. He was attempting to tackle the ballcarrier when a teammate was blocked backward into McDonald, crushing his leg.

"I broke my tibia and fibula, just snapped both of them in half," McDonald said. "The bones were cut right through. …It was so bad that I was rushed into surgery in about two hours."

The injury ended his season and, to make matters worse, doctors told him it would be unlikely that he would ever be able to recover enough to play football again.

He finished his season with 877 yards passing, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions on 62 completions in 116 attempts.

But for someone who has football in his blood — his dad, Mike, played at USC and for more than a decade in the NFL and his brother Anthony is at the University of Notre Dame — and for someone who has fought hard to continue playing the sport, he wasn't about to let the injury derail him.

"I just made the decision to try and come back," he said. "The doctors told me that even if I was able to make it back, it would take me at least a year to two years to recover."

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