Team McDonald Making a Difference


Ricardo McDonald was born in St. Mary, Jamaica, but overcame his childhood affinity for Cricket to craft a successful and fulfilling NFL career.  McDonald played linebacker from 1992 to 2001 for the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos.  Now that he’s retired, he uses that knowledge to help mentor younger players in the NFL.  He’s also a Houston Texans Ambassador.  Ricardo and his wife Tammara work together on numerous ventures as Team McDonald – the foundation that they pour so much of themselves into, along with raising their three children together.

Pro Player Insiders is proud to welcome Team McDonald, who will be bringing unique features to PPI readers in the coming weeks!

Team McDonald - Ricardo and Tammara

Pro Player Insiders:  When did you first know you wanted to play in the NFL?

RM:  Being born in St. Mary, Jamaica, I grew up wanting to be a Pro Cricket (soccer) player.  I would say that moving to the United States in 1982, when I was about 12 years old, and watching the NFL game between San Francisco and Dallas Cowboys was a pivotal moment that jump started my interest in playing the game of football.

PPI:  Tell us about your road to the NFL?

RM:   Here’s the short version – lol. I was born in St. Mary, Jamaica. At the tender age of 11, I came to the United States, where I was reared in Paterson, New Jersey. I attended Eastside High School, where the infamous movie, “Lean on Me” was filmed. During middle school, I began being recognized for my natural talents and ability on the football field.  This recognition expanded and magnified as I transitioned to high school. While at Eastside High School, I excelled both in football and academics, and had led the team in tackles, quarterback sacks, and forced fumbles. This crazy notoriety caused me to be an attractive college recruit, which then earned me a full scholarship to my Alma Mater, “the infamous” University of Pittsburgh. From there, my hard work and determination, both on and off the field, earned me my most distinguished honor yet, a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree, and upon graduation, I was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1992 NFL Draft.

PPI:  What were the greatest obstacles you faced in achieving your dreams?

RM:  The greatest obstacle I faced in my attempts to achieve my dream was being able to constantly challenge myself to grow and develop into the greatest football player I possibly could be, which encompassed  resolve, discipline, embodying an invaluable work ethic, always keeping a positive attitude, and maintaining a high intensity of determination and perseverance continuously.

PPI:  Who has influenced your football career the most?

RM:  Great question!  Believe it or not, my Little League Football coach named Lou Mathis. Lou believed in me more than I believed in myself during my Pop Warner football days. Once when I tried to quit football, he pulled me over to the side (like a son) and told me that he believed in me and my athletic ability. He also told me that if I stayed with football, with the ability and potential he saw in me, I would go very far in football.  Lou’s influence stuck with me from that day on; it played a major role and was a major turning point in my life. I followed his advice and he was right – it paid off. Hats off to Lou – Thank you for believing me!

PPI:  Did any player serve as a mentor when you joined the league?

RM:  Yes. When I was drafted to the Cincinnati Bengals, there were two Hall of Famers and veterans who vividly come to mind who were instrumental in both my personal and professional development, Anthony Munoz and Boomer Easison.

PPI:  Did you mentor a player then or now?

Former Players McDonald Twins & Eagles DeSean Jackson

RM:  Yes, both then and now; whenever the opportunity presents itself.  In my opinion, mentorship is vitally needed in all pro sports. Mentorship is defined as a personal development relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. However, true mentoring is more about an ongoing relationship of learning, dialog, accountability, and challenge.  In my opinion, mentoring a player prior to, during, and after a Pro career in all sports is necessary.  I wish there was more player (or former player) on player (or former player) mentoring taking place.  Having played this sport on a Pro level, you will always have a link to it or be associated with it in some capacity, form or fashion, whether you choose to be actively involved or lie dormant.

PPI:  How has the game of football changed since you left?

RM:  The game has changed significantly over the years. With so many changes over the history of it, I’m sure I couldn’t name them all.  Some of those changes include: Early on, players wore leather-type helmets and/or did not where pads, helmets, and bars. Evolution of rules and the technology used in scouting has changed. Pro career life span, salaries, signing bonuses, branding, and endorsements have changed.  Early on teams were loyal and honored contracts more often than not.  Stability, free agency and the Collective Bargaining agreement have changed and much more….

PPI:  Who are some current NFL players that you enjoy watching?

RM:  I enjoy watching several current NFL players, too many to name them all; however just to name a few: Demarcus Ware, Ray Lews, Lamar Woodley, Troy Palimou, DeShawn Jackson, Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Andre Johnson,  Chris Johnson, Steve Smith, and many others.

PPI:  Do you keep in touch with any of your former college or NFL teammates, if so, who are they? 

RM:  Yes, several.  I probably can’t name them all – Keith Hamilton, Andre Collins, Walt Harris, Ruben Brown, Todd Kelley, Kevin Smith, and others…

PPI:  What is your best advice for players just starting their careers?

RM:  Great question! Maintain focus, let  go of the ego/pride, remain grounded and humbled, be actively involved in all aspects of your affairs (during and after your career), pair up with a veteran or alumni mentor, stay healthy, live modest,  have a vision for your life (both now and later), build your brand and a sustaining legacy, and always stay true to who you really are. I also would tell them to live each day, as if it were their last and to have a meaningful life that will preserve and sustain their legacy far beyond their lifespan!


PPI:  How has your life and family changed post football?

RM: It has given me an opportunity to leverage my fame in the NFL to be involved in many projects, partnerships, serve on several different Boards & Charities, a platform of speaking to youth about my experiences and motivate them – Inspiring them to do greater and bigger things.  Due to the alarming statistics of Pro sports families post-career and transition is an area though that is near-and-dear to me and my wife’s heart. It has also provided a means to be able to provide for my family & coach our sons in sports.

TM: Our Life has changed in a sense of Rico’s career – not suiting-up on Sundays/Mondays for pro football games, or football being our main source of income; but other than that, it has not changed a whole lot overall or us personally.  We never let the fame that comes with a pro football career define the real us.  From the onset, we made it a point and consideration to think, live, and act on what life would be like without football, and lived according to that.  We have always tried to live humbled, modest and grounded lives from the beginning, relying first and foremost on our faith and support of one another to guide us through the path of life. Our Pro football and alumni football lives have always both encompassed us being actively and cohesively involved in charitable efforts and initiatives, and now gives us a platform to leverage that success.

PPI:  How did you prepare to transition to life after football?

RM: First and far most, our faith, our support for one another, and our drive to survive, sustain, and succeed helped us prepare to transition into life after football. From the beginning, Tammara and I began preparing for a transition of life after football and what that would be like for us.  Both, during and post career, my wife and I had personally witnessed or heard of both great post career transitions, and the high number of upsetting post career transitions, which we took heed of.  The high alarming statistics always stayed with us and on our minds almost on a daily basis, and still does to this day. We were determined not to a part of the alarming statistics, and are fervent on assisting in solutions of them for all pro sports families.

TM: Well said, I could not have said it any better myself !

PPI:  Are you involved in any community or charity activities? If so, which ones and why are they important to you?

RM/TM: We are involved in several community and charity activities.  A few are:

Houston Texans Ambassador, All Pro Sports Training Academy (Directors), Let the Fashions Begin (benefits sickle cell research), Game Changerz, NFL Alumni Charities, Off The Field PWA, Leagues of Their Own (LOTO) and several others.

PPI:  What business projects have you and your wife been involved in?

RM/TM: Business projects we’ve both been involved with together are residential and commercial financing, motivational/professional speaking, serving as Board of Directors, and several others…

PPI:  What sports do your kids play? How has playing in NFL influenced them?

RM/TM: Together we have three (3) children: Austin & Autumn (twins) -  age 12 ½ and a son, Bryce – age 6. For the most part, we’ve instilled in them the importance of being grounded, besides to them it seems as if their dad played a trillion years ago, so he’s no longer cool.  We don’t think it has any effect on our daughter, Autumn – she wants to follow her mom’s footsteps in dance, cheerleading, and modeling. For our oldest and most competitive son, Austin, who plays basketball and football, it lights a determination and fire in him to work and train extra hard, because he wants to always succeed at being great in the sports he plays; since he grasps the level I played on and what it takes to play on that level.  Right now our youngest son, Bryce is not fazed at all by my plight in the NFL. He’s just starting to get his feet wet in sports, and just sees his dad as some big guy that played football. 

PPI: Where did the nickname “TEAM MCDONALD” come from? 

RM/TM: Team is defined as a number of persons associated in some joint action(s) or common goal(s). Sports teach you the importance of TEAM. There is no “I” in Team. From the time we said, “I Do!”, and my wife took on my last name, “I” no longer existed, and we became a team from that day forward. Together, in our marriage and family we are a team in all that we do.  Team McDonald first came about from our support system and how we chose to live our lives – as a team; A team who’s committed to supporting one another in all endeavors and in every aspect.  It’s funny because those that know us recognize us for our togetherness, and our ability to unify diverse groups together for common goals; so we thought what more of an appropriate and befitting name than to be known as “Team McDonald.”  This has allowed us to maximize each of our strengths and minimize each others’ weaknesses.  “Team McDonald” encompasses our team work and joint efforts in doing so. Anyone that is involved and engaged with our efforts, are a part of Team McDonald (our foundation).  Team McDonald embraces those that support us and our initiatives as we generate synergy through coordinated efforts, partnerships,  and unified fronts.  Team McDonald thrives on the fact that members of our team learn how to help one another and our communities, help other team members realize their true potential, and create an environment that allows everyone to go beyond their limitations for the sake of the team.  One Team – United we stand! If you’re down with us, you’re on Team McDonald!

PPI: What can PPI readers expect from the TEAM MCDONALD featured stories?

RM/TM: We can’t let the cat out of the bag. Team McDonald is unique, passionate, and diversified, so there’s no telling what’s simmering in the pot of our featured stories, however, we promise to give you substance.  PPI readers stay tuned to see what Team McDonald has in store. And if you have any ideas or suggestions, please send them our way.  Also, more info on where you can follow us on social media to come. Keep your dial right here on PPI, and stayed tuned. Best Wishes, Team McDonald.

By Theresa Villano

Follow Theresa on Twitter at @Theresa_PPI
You can follow Tammara McDonald on Twitter at @TamLoveMe

18 Responses to “Team McDonald Making a Difference”

  1. Gina Pizzo

    Team McDonald – Your charitable efforts and mentoring programs throughout Houston and the surrounding areas are very much appreciated by the community. Continue the great work!

    GEAUX SAINTS!!!!!!!

  2. Engin Dogan

    Mr.McDonald and Mrs.McDonald are really fabulous parents I have ever met. I would like to thank them for their contribution to our school. They did awesome job. Thanks again.

  3. Mary Ford

    I enjoyed reading the article and I was thoroughly impressed with Rico and Tammarra. I wish that young athletics and their parents could read this article. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to exceed on the highest level for football. Rico is an inspiration for young athletics to follow.

  4. shawn spinda

    what a great story, wish i knew him when he played, i met him at the super bowl this year.. him and his wife are class acts. I hate the bengals. but i really like them both. that is family i proud to meet. I take pride saying i know them and that i concider them a friend. I like they help out alot of charitys and that hope that alot of players act like they do..

  5. Diatra James

    Great article!!! Love the McDonalds. They are a wonderful and loving couple. May God continue to bless you………Go Team McDonald!!!

  6. Elanis Westbrooks

    Great article!! Thank you guys for being a blessing to our community. Keep up the great work and I know God will continue to bless your family and your works! Go Team McDonald!

  7. Gloria Hudson

    TEAM MCDONALD is definitely making a difference. I tip my hat off to this great team. Their lives, motto and covenant are truly an inspiration to all they come in contact with.

  8. Tamara Davidson

    WONDERFUL TEAM MCDONALD!!’ Your philanthropic mission to make a difference in the lives of others is truly remarkable. You life story of love and purpose is one for the history books and serves as a fantastic example of “The Real Life Beyond The Grid Iron”

  9. Diana Dortch

    Great article!!! Love the McDonalds. They are a wonderful and loving couple.I am definetly behind Team McDonald. God Bless

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