Story by DAVID PENA for the Pooler Magazine.
Photos by TONYA CHESTER PERRY
“The difference between a boss and a leader is that a leader helps guide the way, while a boss just directs.” Savannah Christian junior Barrett McDonald fondly remembers this distinction from years ago when a football coach was teaching the youngster some important life lessons. And according to those who know him best, McDonald, a star student as well as a standout football and lacrosse player, consistently exhibits the traits of a natural leader both on and off the field. Joe Redding, head coach of the varsity lacrosse team, says, “I met Barrett last fall when I started coaching lacrosse at Savannah Christian, and I coached him all last season. I have found that he’s an outstanding young man in every way, always extremely polite to everyone. He’s also dedicated to whatever sport he plays in addition to being a very coach-able athlete; you can basically tell him what you want done, and he’ll make sure to do it to the best of his ability.”
Over the years there have been a multitude of talented football players that have come out of Savannah Christian under head coach Donald Chumley. Now in his 12th season leading the football program, Chumley says Barrett is not only one of the most impressive players he’s coached, but he also prides himself on having a great work ethic when it comes to schoolwork. “Barrett has worked extremely hard every year, and he’s put himself in the position to be a really great player because now he’s got all the tools to be as good as he wants to be. More importantly, he’s a great role model for everyone on the team. He’s just the total package: a great student, a great teammate, and just a great kid.”
Chosen to be team captain in only his freshman year, McDonald effectively used the experience to become an integral part of the offensive line for the Raiders the following season. Proving to be versatile in several positions, he played nose guard and tackle on both sides of the ball just as effectively and even played middle linebacker on occasion. “I started my sophomore year on offensive line, and I was happy to be chosen that year as part of second team all-region. I was named team captain again this year and plan to start on offensive line again, or wherever I can make the biggest difference for the team,” he explains. “It really depends on the ‘package’ that coach Chumley puts me in.”
Unfortunately, Barrett was unable to play in the scrimmage game against Beach High due to a strained hip resulting from one particularly grueling practice. “I was disappointed that I was unable to play in the (scrimmage) game, but I plan to be in full force for the rest of the season,” he adds. And at 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds, this may not be good news for opposing teams. The Raiders kicked off their 2016-2017 season on August 19 with a game against Jefferson County, and coach Chumley and his star linesman are optimistic about this year’s team. “Obviously we’re hoping for a state championship, and this year in particular we think that our (offensive) line is one of the better lines we’ve had under coach Chumley,” says McDonald. “We’re excited to see how well our line as a unit will perform this season, hopefully taking us ‘into week fifteen,’ as coach likes to say.”
Since Barrett was eight years old, football always has been his primary sport, but according to the talented junior, he says that he needed to find other outlets in order to work on his cardio and weight during the off season. “I basically had a choice between track and lacrosse, and since lacrosse is like a combination of hockey and football, I went that route.” Coach Redding is certainly glad he made the choice. “He works extremely diligently to learn and master the game, going beyond what is called for (on his own) in order to improve and excel. He’s really an excellent player, serving a core position on the defense. Barrett was always on the field when we needed to shut down the opposing team,” he says. Besides the similarity between the two sports, according to McDonald, the teams have similar talent pools. “Both the football and lacrosse teams plan on having a giant freshman class with a lot of young talent. It’s great how the younger players are taking a leadership role,” says the athlete.
In addition to being his sport of choice, football has also been integral to shaping his outlook on life in some very unique ways. “Football teaches me that no matter how hard I might get hit, there’s always a next play. You get to hit the person harder than they hit you,” McDonald says with a laugh, “but the same thing can be applied to life. No matter how far I get set back (in life), there’s always an opportunity to control what happens. Nothing is too great of an obstacle.” In addition to his athletic prowess, when he is not on the field Barrett is part of the Beta Club, National Spanish Honor Society, Science Engineering Club and Science Quiz Bowl. When asked how he manages to juggle his time between sports and academics, McDonald responded, “My family has always taught my brother and I about time management, and coach Chumley has been great about reinforcing that idea. He always says that we’re student-athletes, not athletic students.” Boasting a 3.65 GPA, the reinforcements seem to be working. Outside of school, however, McDonald also finds time to be involved in the Savannah Science Seminar and the Ronald McDonald Volunteer Board. And on the rare occasion when he has some free time, McDonald says he likes to do “ordinary teenage stuff.” This includes listening to music or hanging with some friends, and, like his younger brother Walker, Barrett is an avid hunter. “My brother and I have always hunted, and I love to hunt and fish with buddies. Anything from deer and quail to pheasant and turkeys, all kinds of game.”
Through football and his various other activities, McDonald says that he’s invariably been put into a leadership position, a role that he truly relishes. “I’ve found that a good leader encourages and helps people by using a positive attitude, and I’ve tried to do that. Playing sports has taught me that you can’t be a leader and be negative, always blaming others; you have to guide them. It’s had a major effect on how I go through life and interact with others.” Coach Chumley agrees, adding, “Barrett plays football the way he lives his life- he does it the best he possibly can, and you can’t ask for more than that. He’s a leader on and off the field, which is something that we strive for at Savannah Christian. I’m extremely proud to have him on our team.”
As far as college goes, McDonald definitely plans to continue his athletic career, although exactly where is still a question mark at this point. “I plan to go wherever life takes me. I’ve been working hard over the past summer, attending various camps to get some exposure,” he says, “and I hope to develop some ongoing relationships with smaller schools like Furman and Mercer.” Barrett’s mother Katie isn’t too surprised when it comes to her son’s achievements. “Barrett’s always been wise beyond his years and has always known what he’s wanted to do and what he needs to do to get there. He’s kind of been on ‘auto pilot’ as far as getting things done for school and making deadlines. I never have to worry about him.” Thus far, based on his high school accomplishments both on and off the field, it’s safe to say that Barrett McDonald’s future is a success story waiting to be written.
Thank you to Pooler Magazine for providing this article to SCPS.