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  • Writer's pictureAl Thompson


Updated: Jan 31

Prep DB Ryan McDonald - a senior to be - is looking to get noticed by more college scouts in 2024. Photo by Al Thompson

When the football program you play for has won league and state championships under its last three head coaches, it would be hard find any challenges for a starting player on one of those teams.

Ryan McDonald is an All-Catholic junior defensive back for St. Joe’s Prep.

He is part of a program that has won six of the eight PIAA 6A State Championship, since the division was introduced in 2016.

The Prep played in the championship games of the only two it didn’t win.

When you play for a program that dominates the field the way The Hawks have done since Gil Brooks took over head coaching duties in 1992, through Gabe Infante and currently with Tim Roken, the biggest and maybe only challenge is getting noticed by college scouts?

McDonald is not a running back, a receiver or quarterback.

Stats for those positions, even at the high school level, are recorded and posted every week.

Defensive backs don’t always get to make those flamboyant hits that linebackers and edge rushers get that make the highlight reel. .

And if you’re lockdown cornerback, opposing QB1s will avoid you like you’re state trooper speed trap.

With a program like The Prep, everyone is good.

Ryan McDonald and his father Roman just before a workout in the front lobby of Adrenaline Sports Performance facility in Cherry Hill. Photo by Al Thompson

McDonald disclosed he only plays defense. Most college and NFL stars, when they played in high school, never left the field.

How can he convince scouts that he’s not just a good player on a great team, but a great player on a great team?

“You just have to make the most of where you’re at,” McDonald said during a sit down talk at the Cherry Hill Adrenaline Sports Performance facility with his dad Roman. “I’ve played corner, safety, nickel…I definitely made a bigger step in production  since last year. You have to take charge on the field, you’ve got to be helping guys out, being a leader. I definitely want to look to doing that.”

Without film or seeing the player perform in person, it can be hard for the player to sell himself. It’s all about the eye test, right?

“It’s pretty fair,” McDonald said with a chuckle.

Adrenaline owner Chad Hallett said playing on a championship team is always a plus.

“I think being on an elite team puts him in front of more scouts than the average athlete from other schools would see, so I think it has no negative effect.”

McDonald talked about some of the specific training he is doing to keep improving his game.

“Chad mainly helps me work on my speed, my mobility, my flexibility” McDonald said. “It’s definitely important as a DB. I appreciate Chad and everything he does for me with that. My other trainers help me with my strength and more flexibility.”

McDonald said he trains quite a bit at the Prep’s campus with the school’s strength coaches.

Hallett believes McDonald is taking the right steps to become an elite defensive back that will attract college football’s top programs.  

“Been working with Ryan for the last two years and our main focus is speed development,” Hallett said. “Last season he was more explosive and quicker and we look to improve even more for his final season at The Prep. I'm steadily seeing an increase in his mph with our outcome goal is to have him anywhere between 21 & 22 mph.

“College scouts wanna see fast athletes and Ryan has shown that through testing (we use the "Power Dash" 3x same as the NFL Combine and on the field!)"

Ryan McDonald in action for St. Joe's Prep during its latest State Championship season. Photo submitted.


The Prep’s system has produced more than its share of college and professional football players.

Wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus (five years) and running back D'Andre Swift (five years) are both currently playing in the NFL, both played this year for the Philadelphia Eagles with Swift recording career high numbers and being selected to the Pro Bowl.

Jon Runyan, Jr - son of former Eagles Pro Bowl tackle Jon Runyan, has started 50 of the 67 games he has played for the Green Bay Packers.

Prep alumni who have played in the NFL include linebacker Victor Hobson (seven seasons) and quarterback Rich Gannon, who was NFL League MVP in 2002 and was twice named first team All Pro.

The 2024 NFL draft will see Prep players Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR) and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. have their names called on Draft Day. Harrison is a lock for first round. Trotter is forecast as late first, early second. Impressive all the same.      

Prep DB Ryan McDonald - loves football and everything about it. Photo by Al Thompson


Not everyone is blessed, even with great talent, to play for a winning program like St. Joe’s Prep.

The 6-foot-0, 185-pounder was asked if he is aware of his good fortune to play for such a program, even if it means dealing with critics.

“For sure,” McDonald said. “I know our program gets a lot of…kind of hate; we’re not very popular amongst most other teams. I know that we’re a very talented, special program and everybody doesn’t get to play for a program like that. And some people…”

It should be noted that while Ryan is correct with regards to the resentment that comes with consistent winning, there are other factors that generate negative feelings for a program.

Prep schools across the country have faced criticism from coaches in many sports over the years for what is perceived as the practice of recruiting players from parishes and neighborhoods outside of where the private school is located.

While some of those judgments are fair, some complaints come from sore losers. Kids can go to school wherever their parents want to send them.

Having said that, more and more complaints are now often targeted at parochial and public school sports programs that have been engaged in recruiting.



College and NFL teams aren’t just looking for talent when scouting players. There is a focus on what kind of person they want to invest in.

If a player is talented but is a jerk or a locker room cancer, they don’t want him.

If a player isn’t respectful for people he does not need…like the security guard at the school or practice facility, or non-athletic classmates, or team staff members…the team may pass on that guy.  

A player also needs to show he loves football, that he's not just there for the scholarship or paycheck.

McDonald was asked if he loves football.

“I do love football,” he said. “I don’t think that I would sacrifice all my time, all my free time unless I didn’t love football. Our program is very demanding and time consuming. If you didn’t love football, you wouldn’t be doing it.”

These are the best years of a high school player’s life. Titles are great…but is McDonald aware the people he’s around now, may impact his life more than anyone else he may meet in the future?

“For sure…I don’t take any moment for granted,” McDonald said. “These are my brothers. I see how hard they work. It makes me happy when they all succeed. Team success makes me happy, seeing each other happy…they’re my brothers.”

Humility…how do you treat people you don’t need?

“That is something I learned from a very young age,” McDonald said. “Not just from football, but from my parents. They always taught me…treat someone as you would want them to treat you…respect everybody. Everybody does something…whether it’s very big or very small. Everybody has meaning…you just have to respect that, embrace that.”

McDonald said he has talked to a few college programs, nothing on the table yet…

Judging from the character shown by Ryan McDonald after just talking to him and his dad; it’s hard to believe that status won’t take long to change in his favor. * 

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