LOS ANGELES – T.J. McDonald is a USC Trojan through and through.
When he was “younger than I can remember” one of his most prized possessions was a USC sweatsuit. It was the first sweatsuit he ever owned and he loved it.
The fact that the letters U, S and C were on it couldn’t make him happier, and he always loved USC. As he puts it, he’s living a dream. After all, it was the school where his dad, Tim, became an two-time All-American before going on to have an All-Pro career.
T.J. understood the USC-UCLA rivalry at a young age. He watched it growing up and now takes great pride in being able to be a part of it.
“It’s a huge rivalry,” T.J. said. “You want to go out and be able to beat UCLA and show them who owns L.A.”
There’s plenty of bragging rights that come along with that, throughout the city as well as in the McDonald household. Younger brother Tevin, took up the craft of dad and older brother but is a starting free safety at UCLA as a redshirt sophomore.
While T.J. and Tim are proud of him, the line in the sand has been drawn this week. Tim has made his loyalties known.
Of course, Tim wants both of his sons to do well, but unless you know him, you won’t be able to tell he has a son that’s playing for UCLA also on Saturday. He won’t be wearing anything remotely close to Bruin paraphernalia. Tim, who is the Secondary Coach at Fresno State, has a bye this week, so will be able to attend his sons’ game this weekend for the first time this season. Special for him, he doesn’t have to decide who’s game to go to because they both will be at the Rose Bowl on Saturday afternoon.
Similar to how Los Angeles is divided between Cardinal and UCLA Blue this week, so is the McDonald household.
“He’s not wearing no blue,” T.J. said of his dad. “No blue. There’s no blue allowed. He told Tevin that before he got here. He’s not wearing any blue, but my mom will probably put some Bruin blue on.”
Tevin is grossly outnumbered with Tim being a USC alum and T.J. and younger sister Taryn both attending USC.
T.J. is an All-American candidate who decided to forego NFL riches for a year to return to USC for his senior season. While “Unfinished Business” may be finished there are still things that he would like to accomplish before his time ends as a Trojan, like being able to say he never lost to his crosstown rivals.
“That would be great,” T.J. said. “You want to be able to win every game you play, especially against the Bruins, especially against teams like Notre Dame – those rivalry teams – and you want to be able to go out and say ‘I never lost to those guys.”‘
A loss on Saturday will bring pain times three. First and foremost, it would keep USC out of the Pac-12 championship. It would mark the only time McDonald has suffered a loss to his hated rivals which includes being defeated by his younger brother. That’s something T.J. knows Tevin would take tremendous pleasure in. It’s the last time he’ll be able to do so while T.J. is still in a USC uniform.
“Of course, there’s competition (between us),” T.J. said. “I’m the older brother, so of course there’s going to be that competition for him to want to beat his older brother and for me not to let my little brother beat me.”
What will happen if Tevin and the Bruins are able to defeat the Trojans for the first time in six tries?
“I guess we’ll just have to worry about that if it happens,” T.J. said. “Right now we just worry about what we got going on but I know he’ll be talking a lot.