Talk about a cold call.
After the playoff-bound Rams lost their long snapper Doug Barnett to a knee injury in the 1983 regular-season finale in New Orleans, special teams coach Gil Haskell got on the phone and reached out to Mike McDonald.
But McDonald, who long snapped for Haskell and first-year Rams head coach John Robinson when they were at USC, hadn't done so since their 1980 Rose Bowl victory over Ohio State and was understandably surprised.
"I was out playing golf," McDonald said. "My dad came up in a golf cart and said, 'Hey, Gil Haskell wants to talk to you.' I wasn't sure what he wanted. He hadn't seen me for a few years."
McDonald returned the call and…
"He said, 'Hey, I need you.' I said, 'What do you need me for?' He says, 'Our guy got hurt. Can you get down here today?' I said, 'I'm pretty sure I can,'" McDonald says.
"So I drove to Anaheim. I saw Gil, and went out and hiked the ball for him to the punter. And he said, 'Okay, what do you think? We want to sign you.' So I signed a contract, but you weren't getting paid on your contract. They were only going to pay me playoff money."
Living in his hometown of Burbank, McDonald, who had been a graduate assistant on Robinson's staff at USC, was working in the insurance business with his dad, and in the process of getting a real estate license. The last thing he thought he'd be doing was becoming a Los Angeles Ram nearly four years after he last put on a helmet and shoulder pads and facing Dallas in the NFC Wild Card game.
"Oh, (my new teammates) gave me a razzing. I was a little bit chubbier than when I played at SC," McDonald laughed. "There were some people, and they did make a lot of fun. I'm sure they did with all the rookies. So it was fine. It didn't bother me.
"I was just kind of in awe being in a room with Jack Youngblood and Dennis Harrah. I remember Carl Ekern recruited me to San Jose State out of high school. He had just finished his senior year there and ended up with the Rams. And there was a couple SC guys, and a couple of UCLA guys. But it was a little different."
Making the Rams the following season, McDonald was released in 1985 when the NFL reduced rosters from 49 to 45 players, and teams didn't have the luxury of carrying a long snapper.
But it was déjà vu for McDonald in 1986, he was selling real estate in the Los Angeles area and the Rams came calling again.
"Same situation. Snapper couldn't get it done," McDonald said. "They had a guy from Ohio State who was trying to learn how to snap, and he didn't get it done. So they called me and I came back after three games in the season."
And he stayed. Through the 1991 season, when the Rams punted or attempted a field goal, it started with McDonald. He'd play nine seasons in the NFL, eight with Los Angeles, before finishing with the Detroit Lions.
What makes McDonald most proud of his gridiron career?
"I don't know if I'm proud of my career," he said. "I mean, it was a game, I got to play it longer than a lot of guys do. You know, I prayed my whole life to want to play football and then I get there and I didn't do as well as I really wanted to do.
"But it was fun. It was an experience. I met some really great guys and had a good time. I got a little closer to Coach Robinson and Gil and some of the other guys."
Making their home in Burbank, McDonald and his wife, Cathy, have three adult children: Jacque, Mike and Anthony; and two grandsons: Mike IV and Matthew. And just as he was when he joined the Rams the second time 36 years ago, McDonald is still in the real estate business.
"I'm with a company called Compass in Sherman Oaks. I was with RE/MAX for a long time, but I transferred over in December," he said. "The reason I did it, I have a partner here, Mary Anne Been, that was a client of mine. Her and her husband are good friends, and she wanted to get into the business. She slowly came in and I was helping her, and we were working together."
Has being a Rams Legend, especially in the Los Angeles area, helped his business over the years?
"You know, part of me says yes, but other part of me says no, because a lot of people don't know who that guy was," McDonald said. "But then there's a lot of people in Burbank who do. I don't know if it was good or bad that I was. In real estate, it's not so much who you are as it is how much knowledge do you have, and how well are you at it in sales."