Colorado State-Pueblo running back Cameron McDondle rushed for 2,014 yards last year, in large part because he always goes the extra mile.
“He works every day like he’s never accomplished anything,” ThunderWolves running backs coach Sam Sewell said, “and like nobody believes in him.”
Is it because his dad, who once played college football himself, never allowed him to accept second-best? Because his younger brother, a teammate now as in high school, never lets him loaf? Or is it something simpler?
“I’m a little guy,” said McDondle, a 5-7, 202-pound senior. “I’ve just got to always play like I’ve got something to prove, because all these guys are bigger than me. I’ve got to show them that little guys are feisty, too.”
There was no doubt about that last fall, when he carried the ball a whopping 333 times for CSU-Pueblo, which went 14-1 en route to the NCAA Division II championship. His yardage total was a school record and the third-most in Division II. He also scored 16 touchdowns.
This year McDondle is a preseason All-American. So too is offensive tackle Zach Martinez, one of four returning linemen. The ThunderWolves are breaking in a new starting quarterback in Malcolm Ruben — he replaces the departed Chris Bonner, who threw 30 TD passes and just eight interceptions last year. Nonetheless they rank second in he D2Football.com preseason poll, heading into Saturday’s opener against Central Washington on ASN.
So how do you top a season like the one McDondle had in 2014?
“I don’t think you really top it,” he said. “I think you just come out and give it your best, and try to do what’s best for the team.”
Sounds trite. Also rings true to Sewell.
“That kid, he just loves football,” he said. “It’s not about the numbers or anything like that. The kid loves football, he loves the process, he loves coming to work every day. … If he could do this every day for the rest of his life, he’d be OK.”
McDondle’s dad Ernest played cornerback at Western State and coached him in younger years. There were times, Cameron said, when the elder McDondle “had to light that fire under me when I was going out and just messing around — being soft, I guess.”
Cameron’s younger brother, Bernard, was a fellow running back at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., and followed him to Pueblo. “He’s my energy when I’m having my lazy, sluggish days,” Cameron said.
Doesn’t happen often. He rushed for 854 yards his freshman year, 848 more as a sophomore, then soared even higher last season. He surpassed 100 yards 12 times in 15 games, with a high of 227 against New Mexico Highlands. His career total of 3,716 rushing yards is equivalent to 2.1 miles.
Such was his season that he was a factor even while running for a season-low 58 yards in a 26-23 victory over Western State on Sept. 20. With the ThunderWolves trailing by four and backed up on their own 3, he jumpstarted a nine-play, 97-yard march with a 16-yard burst, then capped the drive by scoring the winning TD from 4 yards out with 43 seconds remaining.
“You have a kid that works as hard as this kid works, and goes through the grind of the season that he had to go through and gets repaid after all that with a national championship,” Sewell said, “you hope that a kid who works that hard can get repaid like that.”
Repaid in full. And all because he goes the extra mile.