Vance McDonald is hoping the expression "good things come to those that wait" applies to football too. The very talented freshman Tight End from East Chambers, Texas sat out last fall, rehabbing a surgically repaired shoulder. The injury would have guaranteed a red-shirt season for him in 2008 anyway, so rather than enroll at Rice and "lose" a season of eligibility he waited.
The wait was more psychologically painful than anything his shoulder rehab would inflict. Football players hate watching, rather than playing the game - but that's something McDonald knew he had to do in 2008.
"I grew really fast and had to have my shoulder worked on to be able to play football in college. I've had both shoulders done now and the doctors tell me they are stronger than before."
Now, finally the wait is over - and McDonald couldn't be happier to be where he is right now.
"Its great to finally be here; to be part of the team. It seemed like January would never get here but things are really moving along now."
McDonald is currently going through the off-season workouts with the rest of the team. And predictably is already seeing positive results from the strength and conditioning program.
"I've put on some good weight since I've been here. I reported at 224 (pounds). I weighed 233 yesterday, so I think I'll hit 240 before spring practice."
With McDonald's abundant athleticism, and rapid physical development he is being counted upon as a potential star on the Rice Offense.
His transition to college life, and football, has been eased somewhat by his roommate - Junior Left Tackle Scott Mitchell.
"Scott's really helped me out a lot. I've probably asked him a million questions. I think he's probably answered about all he wants to about now though," Vance laughed.
Though McDonald seems to be adjusting well, quite a bit has changed since his arrival. But with some timely senior leadership, and a great attitude, he's adapting.
"We all understand that coaches come and go - it's just part of football. I enjoyed getting to know Coach Herman but Rice Football will go forward with the players and coaches that are here."
I asked Vance if the younger players on the team were effected by all the change. His response is reassuring, and at the same time addresses any concerns about a leadership void in 2009.
"I'd say we're all focused on doing our jobs each day. The younger guys really look up to players like Andrew Sendejo. He and the other seniors called a team meeting when all the coaching changes had taken place. They told us we would have to work harder now, and that we have a responsibility to the team and to ourselves to play this game at our highest level of ability; always. Andrew told us we need to prove that coaches are only part of the equation - the players have to make the plays - and we're still here. 2009 is in our hands. He's a guy that gives everything he has in whatever he does. I really look up to him."
Perhaps McDonald too will be the guy standing in front of a bunch of younger players one day, leading them to believe in themselves and demanding nothing less than their best. Hopefully he won't have to do it under the same circumstances that Andrew Sendejo has.
For now, he told me he and his teammates are focused on "things they can control".
"I can't control what happens with the coaches. I understand that they have families to think about and its a business. So, it really doesn't bother me too much. I've waited a long time to come here and I'm focused on the reasons I'm at Rice - that's to get and education and help the team play championship football."
If early reports are any indication, those "good things" are happening for those that wait alright - with McDonald's athleticism and attitude I'd say Rice Football is the recipient...