As a bearded gent strode down to where the 25th annual Town Crier Athlete of the Year awards were given out, it was hard to believe that Jeff MacDonald was young enough to be the Central Region honouree.
There was no peach fuzz or patchy growth. It was a full-on beard that would make a lumberjack jealous.
“I’ve done it every year since grade 10 for rugby and I just grow it out from the onset of the season,” he said, with a laugh. “It’s half a lazy beard and half just for the purpose of growing it out.”
Still the 17-year-old was more than worthy of his accolade as he was involved in all avenues of sports at Northern Secondary School.
MacDonald is receiver for the senior boys’ football team, a centre and power forward for the basketball team as well as inside centre for the rugby troupe.
Additionally, he was treasurer for the boys’ athletic council. this year.
Yet with all his activity, he was quiet about a personal tragedy that is still fresh in his mind. His mother Barbara died May 30 after a months-long battle with cancer.
“I don’t think it’s fair to anyone else to include them in what was going on in my life unless I needed to reach out,” he said. “I had a good support group with my family, my coaches and some of the guidance counsellors at the school, so I didn’t want to put the burden on anyone else.”
With the unfortunate loss, father Ross, as well as older brothers Jamie and Scott kept the family ties tight.
“This has brought us even closer,” MacDonald said.
The cohesiveness can be attributed to the MacDonald’s mutual love of sports, as Jamie was involved throughout high school and Scott is a member of Queen’s University’s track team.
Jeff will join Scott at Queen’s but not until he takes a year off to volunteer with a rugby squad at a high school in Ireland. It’s all part of his plan to become a phys-ed teacher.
“Since grade 10 it’s been a dream of mine I want to pursue,” he said, adding his educators were the inspiration for his career choice. “All the coaches and gym teachers I’ve had are amazing people and are just wonderful role models for me to grow up under.”
But MacDonald’s not forgetting about being on the field.
His biggest test yet will be deciding which sport he loves more.
“It’s either football or rugby and it depends on how I feel at the end of next year,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough decision but one that I’m looking forward to.”
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