McDonald: 'It was a complete shock'

Posted Mar 13, 2018

A lot has changed for Vance McDonald in the past year.

A little over a week before the 2017 season was set to start, Vance McDonald’s football world changed.

The veteran tight end was traded from the San Francisco 49ers to the Steelers.

“It was a complete shock,” said McDonald at the time.

While it was a shock, McDonald was also excited right off the bat, and that feeling never wavered as the season went along. He quickly fell in love with his new team, and everything that came with playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“To me, just coming to a new team, not knowing what to expect, was tough at first. But not for long,” said McDonald. “The 49ers definitely have a history, championship caliber. Pittsburgh does to me more so, though. Not do we have one more trophy here, one more championship. To me the town is so much more into football, that it is more of a lifestyle here. You can feel that. It’s so fun to play in Pittsburgh. I have only been here one season, but you can definitely feel it.”

Steelers Nation definitely took McDonald by surprise. Yes, every NFL team has a solid fan base, but what McDonald witnessed when arriving in Pittsburgh was like nothing he has ever seen before.

“At Heinz Field we have such an advantage,” said McDonald. “I don’t even think the fans realize how much they can bring to a game in terms of energy and the momentum they can bring to the home field. It’s a huge swing. There are so many things they can do. They bring so much support.

“And not just on game day. It’s crazy when you leave the practice facility and there are people standing outside in five-degree weather and it’s snowing, and they are waving posters and things. Even though I see them for only 10 seconds, that kind of stuff starts adding up. It might be the one thing that you need that day. It really is special.

“When we first moved here we could feel football everywhere we went. Those are the things you see growing up. Those are the things you think about when you hear NFL player. You think that is something you are going to be are part of. That is the town you want to be in. It’s the thing you see in movies and on television shows. And you see it here. I mean, a Terrible Towel is an essential for every Steelers fan. It’s amazing.”

Getting accustomed to a new team was one thing, but McDonald and his wife, Kendi, who have a young son Coman, had to pack up and move everything across the country without any notice.

“I still don’t think my wife and I have talked about it fully,” said McDonald. “I think the timing of it, we didn’t have time to process it and think about it. You just have to do it. We had to define roles between ourselves, what we were handling, what my wife was handling, what I was handling. It was crazy.”

The culture in Pittsburgh, the people, everything about the city was the one thing that wasn’t crazy. McDonald was coming from the Silicon Valley, where a fast-paced lifestyle is a given, to Pittsburgh, where people truly care about their neighbors and value taking things slowly.
“It reminds us of home,” said McDonald. “My wife is from Western Oklahoma, I am from Southeast Texas. The first thing we said when we moved in is how nice the people are. For me, a city is only as great as the people are. Whenever you have friendly, considerate people, that make up the whole city, you are going to have a great city.

“My wife and I have talked about living in San Jose, where life is 100 miles an hour all of the time and if you are not going that fast, you are going to get left behind. It brings a certain part of people out. Always trying to keep up. Here it is slower, but not in a bad way. It reminds us a lot of where we grew up. It’s a great place.”