Rams select safety whose father played for the Big Red

News-DemocratApril 27, 2013 

St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.

ZIA NIZAMI/BND

— Southern Cal safety T.J. McDonald, a player with ties to the Gateway City's football past, was taken by the St. Louis Rams on Friday in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft,

With their second pick in the third round, the Rams selected West Virginia wide receiver Stedman Bailey.

Rams first-round pick Tavon Austin and Bailey were members of the same Mountaineers receiving corps.

T.J. McDonald is the son of former NFL defensive back Tim McDonald, who was drafted in the second round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987, the franchise's final season in St. Louis before moving to Phoenix, Ariz.

Tim McDonald ended up playing 17 seasons in the NFL, six with the Cardinals and 11 with the San Francisco 49ers. He earned six trips to the Pro Bowl, but he only played in three games as a rookie in St. Louis because of injury. Tim McDonald is now a defensive backs coach for the New York Jets.

T.J. McDonald said his father spoke fondly of St. Louis.

"He says it's a great city,'' T.J. McDonald said. "At first, he was a little nervous because he hadn't been out of California. But once, he got out there, he realized it was a great city. He told me I would like it there.''

Tim McDonald also played college football at USC, which also happens to be Rams coach Jeff Fisher's alma mater. Tim McDonald played for the Trojans from 1983-86, while Fisher played for the Trojans from 1977-80.

"They are both very familiar with each other,'' T.J. McDonald said. "I know my dad has a lot of respect for Coach Fisher. He is definitely proud that I get to play for him. His first team was the Cardinals, but they were in St. Louis as well. For me to go out there to St. Louis is a little ironic, but to play for Coach Fisher, I am very excited.''

Fisher served as Tim McDonald's defensive backs coach with the 49ers in 1993.

The 6-foot-2, 219-pound T.J. McDonald has the kind of size that is preferred in NFL safeties.

"I've followed T.J. the last couple of years,'' Fisher said. "T.J. is a big safety who moves well, that covers, that will run and hit. And, he knows football. He is a very, very smart.''

A two-time team captain, McDonald had a 122 tackles, including 6.5 for a loss, as a senior for the Trojans. He also had two interceptions and a sack.

McDonald has an opportunity to immediately step into a starting role for the Rams, who currently have only three safeties on their roster in Darian Stewart and two undrafted rookies from last year, Matthew Daniels and Rodney McLeod.

"You always have to come in and compete, so I am going to compete regardless, but if that job is not taken, my plans are to take it,'' T.J. McDonald said.

Bailey and Austin, were a dynamic duo last season for the Mountaineers.

The 5-foot-10, 188-pound Bailey actually had better receiving numbers than Austin last season. Bailey caught 114 passses for 1,622 yards and 25 touchdowns, while Austin caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards and 12 TDs.

"We've filled a couple of spots out there, and now we're going to lobby with the league to see if we can play with more than one ball,'' Fisher said.

Fisher said Austin and Bailey both stood out during a private workout with the Rams.

"We had them on the board based on their grades, not based on what school they attended,'' Fisher said. "(Bailey) was up there. It was a great opportunity for us. Our staff already has gotten several calls from clubs that were a little disappointed who were right behind us.''

Bailey was thrilled to be on the same NFL team with Austin.

"As I was sitting there waiting (to be drated), he was texting me and telling me to keep my head up and don't get discouraged,'' Bailey said. "Hear I am, reunited with Tavon. It's just a beautiful thing.''

Former Rams Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace announced both of the Rams' third-round pick at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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