Vance McDonald leaned a little further back in the oversized leather chair, a smile slowly coming across his face, and a quiet laugh just barely noticeable.
As he sat there, the smile gradually widened, and the laugh got a little louder.
“On game day, I'm a different guy,” said McDonald.
That is the only way to explain ‘Vanimal,’ the nickname McDonald has been given.
Spend a few minutes talking to McDonald, and you seriously wonder how the nickname makes sense. He is quiet, soft spoken, calm, and seriously one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.
On game day, though, he said it best.
“Instinctually is how I like to look at it. On game day I am a different guy,” said McDonald. “Off the field, even in practice, but on game day, in the moment, the game starts it’s almost instinctually I yearn for the contact, the challenge of trying to be brought down.
“The physical element of football brings so much energy to me. It’s the game within the game. I like the nickname because I think of animals in nature trying to survive to better their circumstances, better their situation. A lot of time it takes making hard decisions, it takes doing the nitty gritty things that are beyond comprehension physically.
“It’s a challenge I embrace whenever I become the focal point simply because I am carrying the football. That I am going to be delivering the blow. That I am going to be looking you up to eliminate you.”
But how does it happen? How does he go from this quiet guy who dotes on his children and plays with puppies to an offensive threat with a defensive mindset?
“I don’t know,” laughed McDonald. “I find myself starting to just like going back to ‘Vanimal.’ I will make weird animal noises. It kind of sounds like grunts and bellows on the sideline. I don’t know.
“I come into this place where physically I am ready to unleash this explosion of force. Football is such a great out to do that. It’s not like I am building up stress through the week or anything like that. That element of knowing it’s coming is so invigorating.”
Yes, you read that right. He did say grunts and bellows on the sideline. And it’s something his teammates absolutely love.
“They really enjoy it,” said McDonald. “I really found that out last year. They wanted me to do it more often. I would be on the sideline and someone will say give me one. I would be like what do you mean. I don’t understand. Apparently I am acting different. I guess it’s different if you are being asked to do it more.”