For only a little more than two months now, Vance McDonald can finally take a breath. Getting dealt from San Francisco to Pittsburgh not even two weeks before the regular season began meant a year of trying to catch up. Move the family, learn the playbook, figure out where the heck the bathrooms are at the practice facility. Now, he has a couple months to digest everything and prepare for his first training camp in Latrobe.
“Yeah my wife and I still almost joke about that,” he told Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews. “”We haven’t even done this.’ I don’t think we could name three restaurants within a five mile radius of our house yet. There’s so many things a conventional offseason would give you. We haven’t had that experience yet. It was definitely fast paced.”
What won’t be as fast paced is the city of Pittsburgh. At least, not compared to San Francisco, as McDonald pointed out in this interview and in others.
“It reminds us a lot of home,” he said of his time so far in the city. “It didn’t take us long to start saying that. We got into a great neighborhood north of Pittsburgh. You’re driving through the neighborhood and everyone has Terrible Towels out and Pittsburgh flags and you’re like, ‘dang, you don’t see this out in Silicon Valley.’ It reminds us a lot of home. The people here are so amazingly friendly and considerate and compassionate. They love football.”
Home for McDonald is not San Francisco. It’s Winnie Texas, population roughly 3,000. McDonald stayed local for college, playing at Rice University, before the culture shock of San Fran. After leaving Candle Stick, their new stadium isn’t even close to the city; it’s in Santa Clara, a solid hour away if you’re lucky. Heinz Field, of course, is smack dab in the middle of the city, a neighbor to PNC Park and a stone’s throw from where the Penguins play. A welcomed sight for someone like McDonald.
Another welcomed sight will be training camp. That’s rare for a veteran to say but for McDonald, it’s a time to work on the details and truly feel comfortable in the offense.
“I’m pumped…it adds so much value to not only the camaraderie but what you can expect between players, building relationships with them. Something we already have a lot of here, accountability. Being able to ride on that ship with them, not just being thrown in right at the last second before you set sail. Having that whole year of plays, practice, adversity, the grind, working out. Embracing the parts of football that aren’t so glamorous like training camp. It adds a lot to it.”
It’s refreshing to hear someone be excited about training camp. Though I predict that after three weeks of the sweltering Latrobe sun and dorm room beds barely long enough, he’ll be happy to get back home.