News: Soldier’s dreams being achieved while serving
Story by Sgt. John Couffer
FORT HOOD, Texas – Dawning a black jersey with the number 56 in gold letters, he tenses his muscles and lowers his head as he launches himself off the starting line as he conducts warm-up drills during practice.
Adel, Ga., native, Pfc. Kimsey McDonald, a cable systems installer-maintainer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters “Hammer” Troop, 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, has played football since the eighth grade, and if he could, he would play football forever.
“That’s my main goal right know. If I can play football forever, I will, that’s too easy,” McDonald said.
Chicago native Pfc. Denzel Bridges, a unit supply specialist also assigned to the Ironhorse Brigade and a friend of McDonald, states McDonald loves the game.
“He has a great love for (football). He tells me after every practice, he comes to work the next day and tells me how many tackles he did,” Bridges said.
McDonald said his first experience with football was watching it on television when he was younger. He added his father played football for a while and his cousin, Ken “Kenny” Tippins, played in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons, and both were sources of motivation for him.
“My dad played (football), he was a defensive lineman. One of my cousins, Kenny Tippins, played for the Falcons. He was a household name around town and just drove me to try and pursue (football),” McDonald said.
Taking a break from football after eighth grade, McDonald began playing football again during his sophomore year in high school. He played for the Cook County High School team, Adel, Ga., the “Hornets,” and achieved the Outstanding Player Award during his senior year in 2009.
After graduating, McDonald was offered a scholarship to Valdosta State University, a nearby junior college, but turned it down to care for his father who had fallen ill.
“At that point in time, I wasn’t thinking about anything but taking care of him. I forgot all about football,” McDonald said.
Bridges said McDonald has a good personality and tries to ensure people have what they need. He added that McDonald has encouraged him to attend practice, go to the gym and has also given him a list of things he needs to bring for football practice.
When it comes to aiding others, Bridges said, “He would be very willing.”
After McDonald’s father was better, McDonald realized he still needed to invest in his future. His sister, who served eight years in the military, encouraged him to enlist in the Army.
“When reality finally woke me up, I was like ‘I still need to do something for myself,’ and the military was there. My sister, she spent eight years in the military. She told me about it,” McDonald said.
After attending Basic and Advance Individual Training, McDonald said his first assignment was Camp Stanley, Uijeongbu, Korea, where the 5-foot-8, 180-pound McDonald continued his passion for football by playing on his unit’s football team.
McDonald stated with a somber tone he used the sport as a kind of coping tool while in Korea.
“Whenever I get in that mode of football, I kind of forget about the bad things, so it took me away from all that,” McDonald said.
McDonald now serves as the captain of the Killeen Knights, a local semi-pro football team.
Beachfront, Mich. native, Kaijuan Zeigler, an Army and Air Force Exchange Service contractor here and Knights head coach, said he has known McDonald since June 2012, and that McDonald is an extremely committed player.
“He has amazing dedication,” Zeigler said. “He dedicates his body and his schooling. He learns the playbook.”
McDonald, according to Zeigler, possesses leader qualities.
“He displays great leadership abilities and takes pride in his craft,” Zeigler said. “He asks questions to plays so he learns what he needs to do as well as other players on the team.”
When asked about being selected as captain, McDonald said it was an unexpected, but welcomed honor.
“Whenever he said my name, it kind of took my breath away. I felt real good because my teammates, they kind of notice that leadership quality. It was a match made in heaven for me to be (captain),” McDonald said. “I really do appreciate and accept the opportunity.”
Bridges stated making captain was a good move for McDonald.
“It’s a big accomplishment, I know that he’s happy that he’s in charge. It’s a big step. I was happy for him,” said Bridges.
According to Zeigler, McDonald takes time after practice to ensure fellow players know their plays and routes.
It’s because of his observed leadership qualities, commitment to the “team” concept and his ability to identify shortfalls and make corrections to the defense prior to plays, that he was chosen to be the captain, Zeigler said.
“McDonald always says ‘we,’’ said Zeigler. “McDonald never uses ‘I,’ it’s always ‘how can we do better?’”
McDonald said he is currently pursuing his educational goal previously put on hold.
“I’m trying to start classes right now, at least get my general studies in,” McDonald said. “I’m trying to stick within sports, like sports trainer or some type of athletic trainer.”
His football goal is to be selected and play for the Canadian Football League or the Philadelphia Eagles, if drafted. With a large grin, McDonald said he would choose the Eagles first.
With his love and dedication to the sport, Bridges believes McDonald can make it where he wants.
“I know he wants to sign with CFL. I think he has what it takes to make it there,” Bridges said.
McDonald noted that being a soldier has enhanced his skills in football.
“I go to the gym; so it’s like PT (physical training), gym, then I go out on the football field (and) I have to run,” said McDonald. “All of that really helps. I see myself running better now. I feel myself getting better, day-by-day, just because of the Army, from all of the personal fitness that we do.”
Zeigler said he is excited for McDonald’s future. He believes McDonald will be successful in any career he chooses because of his dedication to learning and honing his craft.
McDonald offers a word of advice for those who have dreams and are serving in the military.
“I would say, still pursue your dreams,” said McDonald. “That’s what I did. Even though I am in the military, I’m still playing the game I love. I know I have a job, but hey, I got football right behind it.”