Hopkins’ Andre McDonald helps Gopher football team
BY NATE GOTLIEB – MURPHY NEWS SERVICE
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
Former Hopkins football standout Andre McDonald didn’t decide where he wanted to play college football until nearly the last moment.
He initially committed to Minnesota, then to Vanderbilt and finally, to Minnesota.
Though McDonald had become one of the most sought-after recruits in the state, getting to that point wasn’t always a sure thing during the early years of his Hopkins High career. “I had a lot of adversity that messed with my on-field performance,” he said.
That adversity stemmed from a turbulent family life. McDonald moved away from his mom and stepfather early in high school and had a grade-point average below 1.0 after his freshman year.
After he moved out of his mom’s house and into the house of 28-year-old Jenny Blomgren, whom he met through a family friend, his grades substantially improved.
Hopkins head coach John DenHartog said McDonald became more organized and focused once he moved in with Blomgren. “I think he was able to concentrate more on his academics rather than things happening at home,” he said. “And I think from that he became a much better student-athlete.”
Soon after, McDonald found his confidence and began to show his athletic potential. He caught 19 touchdown passes his junior season, and many recruiting services considered him one of the top high school players in the state.
“When he gained confidence, he really became an outstanding player,” DenHartog said. “He was gifted with a lot of great ability as far as quickness and speed and strength, but the big thing was for him to have confidence in himself.”
McDonald graduated from Hopkins last spring as a two-time Associated Press All-State selection after finishing high school with 138 catches and 39 touchdowns.
McDonald credits Blomgren for helping him accomplish that success. “Having her guidance helped me get to where I am,” McDonald said. “She helped me become a well-rounded person.”
Despite the adversity he faced in high school, the Gophers coaching staff expected him to make an immediate impact as a freshman this year. “He’s a bigger wide receiver with great ball skills and can track a deep ball,” Gopher offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound McDonald is part of a wave of youth that Gopher coaches expect to help their rebuilding process. The Gophers displayed this youth against Purdue on Oct. 27. Freshman quarterback Phillip Nelson threw for three touchdown passes in the Gophers 44-28 win and freshman running back Rodrick Williams also scored a touchdown.
McDonald didn’t figure in the statistics that game, but he praised his teammates and coaching staff, calling the Minnesota football program a “great family environment.” Even during the team’s October losing streak, McDonald said he felt a sense of camaraderie with his teammates.
“It’s easy to stay positive when you don’t have everyone else around getting down about losing,” he said.
McDonald’s on-field achievements have been modest this fall. Going into the regular-season finale against Michigan State, he had seven receptions for 85 yards, an average of 12.1 yards per catch.
Off the field, he is maintaining high grades. He carried a 3.6 grade-point average during the summer session and plans to major in elementary education.
McDonald hopes to learn the more intricate aspects of playing wide receiver during his collegiate career. Limegrover set a modest goal for him: to become a good receiver.
“Once he gets over that plateau, then we’ll start looking at the hyperbole,” Limegrover said.
Editor’s note: Nate Gotlieb is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.