Artesia’s Braxton McDonald still has dreams of playing Division I football in college, ideally for Texas Tech. To help make this dream a reality, McDonald traveled to Texas last weekend to participate in the Midland high school football showcase, where he was named offensive MVP.
Standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 175 pounds, McDonald doesn’t fit the mold of a prototypical 6-foot-plus, 200-pound, 5-star recruit receiver. His plan on making it to the collegiate level is simply to outwork his competition, something NFL slot receivers like the 5-foot-9 All-Pro Wes Welker and the 5-foot-10 Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edleman. Both men were wide receivers who dominated for the New England Patriots and each had seasons recording more than 100 catches apiece.
McDonald made the decision to attend the two-hour showcase a few days before the event took place and drove 350 miles to show his skills against other elite level cornerbacks.
“I had to show (the coaches) what I could do,” McDonald said. “Size doesn’t mean anything. I wanted to get that west Texas football feeling and see where am I compared to those guys.”
McDonald got about 20 different routes to run and got the chance to show off his agility, out-maneuvering several different defenders while still catching passes from a quarterback he didn’t know.
“In New Mexico you can usually just run past them,” McDonald said of the cornerback situation in high school. “These guys here are a lot more physical. I need to work on breaker routes and getting their hands off me.”
Mike Desmond, the current wide receivers coach for the Carlsbad Cavemen, spent two years working with McDonald when McDonald was a freshman and sophomore in Artesia.
“Braxton is extremely coachable,” Desmond said. “He’s positive and wants to learn. That makes things a lot easier. Early on for him I focused on route running and how to build a route tree. Understanding how to cut and to explode out of his breaks. He’s only gotten better since I worked with him.”`
That hard work was on display, as McDonald finished his sophomore season with 25 receptions, 296 yards and four touchdown.
McDonald led the Bulldogs in every major receiving statistic in 2019 including receptions (78), average (18.8 yards), yards per game (119.6), longest TD (91) and total touchdowns (22), more than double the numbers of second-ranking receiver Erik Cueto who had 44 catches, 708 yards and nine touchdowns.
The COVID-19 pandemic led the New Mexico Activities Association to direct schools to reschedule sporting events, so McDonald is in a tough bind playing football, basketball and baseball, all in the spring semester. Rather than spending the fall working on another sport, McDonald said he’s just going to stay in shape and prepare for the football season in 2021.
McDonald said he plans to self-isolate from everyone but his family for the next two weeks after going across state lines for the showcase in line with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Department of Health social distancing and travel recommendations.