It's Pat: One crazy ride

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

He's run with the bulls in Pamplona, he's partied with Tony and Jessica, and he's sold insurance in London, England.

He's been the lead singer of a rock band, he's travelled to 25 countries, and he's painted himself green and worn his wife's thong panties to cheer on the University of Alberta hockey team.

He's held down 17 jobs, from rig worker to insurance broker to McDonald's cashier to ditch digger to bouncer to club manager.

He also started playing football just five years ago when he walked on at the University of Alberta, which makes the fact that he's already been signed by two NFL teams and won a Grey Cup rather remarkable.

He's played the last nine games for the Bombers after being acquired in a July trade with Calgary, yet you've probably never heard of him.

Meet Pat MacDonald, perhaps the most intriguing character in the Winnipeg locker-room.

"It's a pretty messed-up story," the 27-year-old said recently after practice. "It was a pretty crazy ride. If you told me five years ago I'd be playing professional football, I would've laughed at you and asked you what you smoked."

The reason why you've likely never heard of MacDonald is because he's not in a role of prominence with the Blue and Gold. He's a special teamer and backup defensive end and long snapper.

If he reaches his goals, however, you will know his name.

"Like any Canadian in this league in a position that is primarily American, I'm going to wait it out. I'm going to be patient. I'm going to keep working hard at getting better," he said. "But mark my words: I will be a premier defensive end in this league, and I don't give a (darn) what it takes.

"I want to be the next Brent Johnson. You can print that. All I'm waiting for is that opportunity."

To say MacDonald lives life to the fullest is to say Manitoba winters are chilly. What sets MacDonald apart from every other Bomber is that he wasn't focused on football when he was in his early 20s. That's because he hadn't played a down yet.

That allowed him to experience all that life has to offer, like living in England for a year and travelling all over Europe. Not many people can say they've taken part in the Tomato Festival and run with the bulls in Spain, but MacDonald can.

"I haven't slept in two days, and there's a hundred yards between you and this cage," MacDonald begins. "And you can see 12 bulls -- they add a bull every day -- and they're pissed. Everyone starts jumping up and down, and it's like a cavern. There's no way out. I'm just like, 'Oh, (bad word).' And then they open 'em up, and boom, they run.

"And some of these Spanish guys, they stand there. I'm just like, 'I'm outta here, man.' And I'm pushing people over, shoving. I can hear them, because they're fast, and I jump to the side. It was really dewey that morning, so the bulls were slipping and ramming people into walls and (stuff). I'm just like this, pinned up against the wall.

"I've had a lot of adrenaline rushes in my life, man, and that was one of the top three I've had. That, bungee jumping in Africa and getting signed this year in the NFL."

The Carolina Panthers earlier this year were the second NFL team to ink MacDonald to a contract, but this one meant more because he actually worked out for them as a long snapper beforehand.

New Orleans signed him out of Alberta in 2007 after seeing his snapping skills on video only. He lasted only six weeks with the Saints and returned to Canada to play for the Stampeders, who had drafted him in the third round that year.

MacDonald, who won the Grey Cup with the Stamps last November (although he didn't play in the game), spent six months with the Panthers this year, but he's still kicking himself for getting the pink slip in June.

"I blew that," he said. "I had that gift-wrapped. It was my own fault. I didn't get it done."

MacDonald isn't sure if he'll try the NFL again, because he considers himself a defensive end who also long snaps. His goal is to play every down on defence, and he knows the only place that could happen is in Canada.

The Oakville, Ont., native, whose family also lived in Fort McMurray, Alta., Calgary and Edmonton, throws everything he has into whatever he does, so don't count him out.

He did the same thing when it came to music, which is where his heart was before football. He was the lead singer, guitarist and song writer for an Edmonton rock band called twentyonered. MacDonald even took singing lessons.

"We opened for a couple bands in the city and travelled around a little bit," he said. "We were starting to get noticed."

He still gets to live the rock star life now and again, because his two younger brothers, twins Mark and Michael, are trying to make it in Hollywood. That's how he ended up at a party with Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson before they split.

"I wanted to go up to Jessica Simpson so bad and throw her my CFLPA card and say 'Hey, ditch the kid and come with me. I'm in the CFL, babe. Third-string defensive end.' But I didn't."

Which is odd, because Pat MacDonald not doing something doesn't happen very often.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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