April 26, 2013
Rice senior tight end Vance McDonald capped steady climb up NFL draft boards by being selected by the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft on Friday night.
McDonald was the 55th overall selection in this year's draft, the highest selection of an Owl since Bert Emanuel was taken by Atlanta with the 45th overall selection in 1994. McDonald is the 10th Owl to be selected in the second round of the draft, the most in any round.
He is the 10th Owl overall taken by San Francisco, and the last to be drafted and play for the team, Earl Cooper, was also a tight end. Cooper caught Joe Montana's first Super Bowl touchdown pass when the 49ers defeated Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI.
McDonald was a consensus All C-USA selection after catching 36 passes for 458 yards and two touchdowns despite missing three games late in his senior season. He began to move up draft boards after becoming the first Rice player to play in the Senior Bowl since ND Kalu in 1997 and continued his ascent with a strong performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.
He ranks sixth all-time with 119 catches (David Houser is fifth with 152), seventh on the Rice career list with 1,504 receiving yards (Doug Cunningham is sixth with 1,522) and tied for fifth with 15 career touchdown receptions (Eric Henley is fourth with 16, James Casey is third with 17 and Houser is second with 18).
He returned from his midseason injury to catch 16 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown in the last two regular season games, including a career-high nine vs. UTEP as the Owls clinched a berth in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Five of McDonald's nine catches in that game came on third down conversions, sustaining all three of the Owls touchdown drives including a pair of conversions in each of the Owls two drives of 90 yards or more in the game.
Rice has now had five players drafted in the last five NFL drafts, including three players recruited by David Bailiff. The Owls only had five players drafted in a period of 11 years prior to James Casey and Jarett Dillard being taken in 2009.