Maybe it was fate that brought Vance McDonald to the Steelers via a trade in 2017 from the San Francisco 49ers.
Because McDonald landed at a place where his values aligned perfectly with those of the organization.
Faith. Family. Football.
Those are three things the Rooney family holds as strong values, and those fell right in line with what McDonald stands for.
Now, after completing his eighth season in the NFL, McDonald will be focused on just two of those – faith and family – as he is retiring from the NFL.
"My family and I are so grateful for everything NFL football has provided us in our life—all the memories both good and the difficult, the relationships and friends we've made along the way, the life lessons the game provided both me and my loved ones," said McDonald. "It's always been our dream and mission to leverage the platform given us through the NFL to help serve and uplift others along the way, and we will continue to find ways to serve others as we begin this next chapter of our lives. I am proud to retire a Steeler."
McDonald, who said during a Zoom call with the media on Friday that he made the decision to retire last offseason so he could start to work on his foundation, said he didn't tell anyone of the decision until after the team's loss to the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card Round.
McDonald, who is looking forward to his future, is also going to miss the joy of his past.
"I'll remember and miss being in the huddle more than anything," said McDonald. "Moments when you look another man in the eyes and you know you both have the same mission, same goal, of winning and success. I'll miss the game. I'll miss the guys. I'll miss the locker room. I'll miss those moments, as uncomfortable as they are, of pressure.
"I always wanted to be a good soldier. I never wanted to present myself like I was in the way. I never wanted to present myself like I was baggage, or it was hard to keep me around. I just wanted to be a good soldier. I wanted to do my job as best as I possibly could.
"I fell in love with being a Steeler, I feel in love with Pittsburgh, I fell in love with the city. I feel in love with all of the people."
Take a look at the best photos of tight end Vance McDonald through the years
McDonald was drafted by the 49ers in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the 55th overall selection. He spent four seasons in San Francisco before getting a fresh start in Pittsburgh after he was traded shortly before the start of the 2017 season.
For his career, McDonald played in 101 games in his eight seasons, starting 77, and finished with 181 receptions for 2,036 yards and 15 touchdown receptions. During his four years with the Steelers, he played in 53 games, starting 47, and caught 117 passes for 1,170 yards and eight touchdowns.
He had his best season in 2018 when he caught 50 passes for 610 yards, a 12.2-yard average, and had four touchdown receptions.
"I am appreciative of Vance's contributions during the last four years of his career that he spent in Pittsburgh," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "He was a class act on and off the field, leading many of our efforts in the community while also being a voice for our social justice efforts and the community work during the pandemic. I wish he and his family nothing but the best in his retirement and his continued work to be a pillar in the community."
McDonald is also Steelers nominee for the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. Every NFL team names a Man of the Year nominee, and they are eligible to be the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year, presented by Nationwide. The award recognizes a player's off-the-field community service, as well as his playing excellence. And McDonald definitely scores in those areas.
When COVID-19 hit the country, and the Pittsburgh region, people were impacted in ways many never imagined. While many thought the only impact of the pandemic would be the threat of contracting the virus, they soon found out the impact was more far reaching. Through his work with Convoy of Hope, McDonald and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger started the Trucks of Hope campaign, with the mission of the campaign to bring individual trucks full of nonperishable food, PPE and cleaning supplies for 1,000 families in Allegheny, Butler and Westmoreland County in the Western Pa. region. Among those they worked with were the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, who distributed the items to agencies they work with throughout the region.