USC junior safety T.J. McDonald announced Wednesday that he will return to school for his senior season, forgoing the opportunity to declare for the NFL draft.
McDonald, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2011, had been projected as a possible second round pick in next April’s draft had he chose to declare.
“We have an opportunity to do something great,” McDonald said in a video released by the school. “That opportunity doesn’t come around very often. I want to finish things out and be a part of something great.”
A second-year starter for the Trojans last season, McDonald finished with 69 tackles and three interceptions, making the Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly All-American first teams. McDonald and his father, Tim, became the first father-son tandem in school history to be named All-Americans. Tim McDonald was an All-American for USC in 1985 and 1986 before a 13-year NFL career with the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.
In 2010, T.J. McDonald also led the team in tackles with 89.
“We’re obviously very excited about T.J.’s decision to return next year,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said in a statement. “He’ll be a leading candidate for the Thorpe Award in 2012 and he has a chance to be a two-time All-American. Plus he will captain our team for a second straight year and graduate.”
Fellow juniors left tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry have announced intentions to declare for the draft, leaving quarterback Matt Barkley as the only prominent USC junior weighing whether to remain in school or turn pro.
Barkley has until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft.