As Cole McDonald leaves Hawaii for the NFL Draft, the islands will remain with him forever


Cole McDonald

Although today is the deadline for early entrants to declare for the NFL Draft, Cole McDonald already made up his mind on Jan. 8, announcing his intentions to forego his senior season at the University of Hawaii.

Even though McDonald’s decision allows him to chase his NFL dreams, it was still a tough decision to the 6-foot-4, 220-pound quarterback. Hawaii was the only FBS school that offered him a scholarship before he signed his Letter of Intent in 2016.

After two years biding his time, McDonald had a breakout redshirt sophomore season in 2018. He remained the starter for the vast majority of the 2019 season. He finished his college career throwing for 8,032 yards, 70 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. To him, his college years will be remembered for the bond he built with the 808 state.

“It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. This is home for me. Hawaii’s always been home, it’s everything to me. It’s made me the man I am today,” McDonald told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello this past weekend while he packed up his McCully apartment in preperation for his pro day training. “To make that decision, it took me a week to choose what to really do and I prayed about it, talked to a lot of mentors and came to the decision that it was in my best interest to leave and pursue the next level.

“I’m gonna miss this place. It’s everything to me and it was probably one of the most difficult decisions of my life.”

McDonald embraced the island life so much that it became a part of him, quite literally. A picture of him that showed him morphing from a short-haired freshman from southern California into a dread-headed redshirt junior went viral back in September.

“I see a young kid coming in from Cali coming into a new environment, a whole new culture, just really embracing the community and just that Polynesian culture and being accepted and just enjoying every moment, loving the people here and growing as a person and learning what it is to live Aloha and play Warrior,” McDonald said when asked about the picture. “Seeing those pictures, it was a big joke but to me, it was a pretty cool trip to see my young self to now just the growth in all those four pictures and I wouldn’t do anything else.”

For future reference, McDonald won’t have to look far for a reminder of his roots. He has the Hawaiian island chain tattooed on his left forearm.

McDonald admitted that declaring for the draft was one of the most difficult decisions of his life. When asked about the tattoo, he called it one of his easiest.

“It was definitely an interesting decision. I wanted to get something to represent Hawaii, I wasn’t getting a Polynesian tattoo because I’m not Polynesian. I really respect the people out here and what that means to them culturally, so the next best thing was getting that island chain tatted on me,” McDonald said. “It’s something that I can look down and see my story for myself, something that I can show other people to represent Hawaii on my arm, always live that Aloha in my heart.

“It was probably one of the best decisions of my life just getting that and being a part of this community and this island. Getting it tatted on me, it’s something that’s a part of me forever.”

McDonald will spend the next couple of months training under the tutelage of former UTEP and NFL quarterback Jordan Palmer. NFL Draft advisers anticipate McDonald being a mid-to-late rounds selection.

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