When the Pittsburgh Steelers traded with the San Francisco 49ers to acquire Vance McDonald, the black-and-gold fan base was very uncertain about their latest move. 2017 saw McDonald injured more than he played, playing in just 7 games and racking up only 188 yards receiving.
Then 2018 came, and it was a different player who suited up on Sundays. McDonald didn’t just play in 15 games, but racked up 610 yards and 4 touchdowns throughout the campaign. Not earth-shattering statistics, but a huge step forward from the 2017 version fans saw.
While Steelers fans have definitely warmed up to McDonald as a quality player, the process of going from injury prone player to fan favorite happened with one play. The play fans now call the ‘Stiff arm heard ‘round the world’ was the turning point in his time as a Steeler when McDonald planted Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Chris Conte into the turf on Monday Night Football as he rumbled to a long 70 yard touchdown.
In case you forgot...
Do not underestimate Vance McDonald's stiff arm.— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 25, 2018
: ESPN pic.twitter.com/yRuGCUEeXz
The play had fans starting to call McDonald the ‘Vanimal’, and McDonald recently sat down with Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley to talk about his transition from Vance to Vanimal.
“On game day, I’m a different guy,” said McDonald.
While McDonald is described as a mild-mannered, kind person off the field, when the lights come on he turns into a different beast.
“Instinctually is how I like to look at it. On game day I am a different guy,” said McDonald. “Off the field, even in practice, but on game day, in the moment, the game starts it’s almost instinctually I yearn for the contact, the challenge of trying to be brought down.
“The physical element of football brings so much energy to me. It’s the game within the game. I like the nickname because I think of animals in nature trying to survive to better their circumstances, better their situation. A lot of time it takes making hard decisions, it takes doing the nitty gritty things that are beyond comprehension physically.
“It’s a challenge I embrace whenever I become the focal point simply because I am carrying the football. That I am going to be delivering the blow. That I am going to be looking you up to eliminate you.”
Does McDonald go through any type of routine to get himself from Vance to Vanimal? I’ll let McDonald describe the situation.
“I find myself starting to just like going back to ‘Vanimal.’ I will make weird animal noises. It kind of sounds like grunts and bellows on the sideline. I don’t know.
“I come into this place where physically I am ready to unleash this explosion of force. Football is such a great out to do that. It’s not like I am building up stress through the week or anything like that. That element of knowing it’s coming is so invigorating.”
Steelers fans are hoping McDonald unleashes the explosion of force more often in 2019, and becomes a prime time player to help in aiding of the loss of Antonio Brown’s on-field production. The fans are at least hoping to see the Vanimal more often next season...