Pfc. Kimsey McDonald, left, a cable-systems installer maintainer assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, stretches prior to football practice Jan. 17. McDonald plays for the Killeen Knights, a local semi-pro football team.

U.S. Army/Sgt. John Couffer

Donning a black jersey with the number 56 in gold letters, he tenses his muscles and lowers his head, launching himself off the starting line as he conducts warm-up drills during practice.

Pfc. Kimsey McDonald, a cable systems installer-maintainer with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, has played football since the eighth grade, and if he could, he would play football forever.

“He has a great love for (football). He tells me after every practice, he comes to work the next day and tells me how many tackles he did,” said Pfc. Denzel Bridges, a unit supply specialist in 1st Brigade and a friend of McDonald’s.

McDonald said his first experience with football was watching it on TV when he was younger. His father played football for a while and his cousin, Ken “Kenny” Tippins, played in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons.

“(Tippins) was a household name around town and just drove me to try and pursue (football),” McDonald said.

He played for Cook County High School in his hometown of Adel, Ga. With the “Hornets,” he achieved the Outstanding Player Award during his senior year in 2009.

After graduating, McDonald was offered a scholarship to Valdosta State University, a nearby junior college, but turned it down to care for his ailing father.

“I wasn’t thinking about anything but taking care of him. I forgot all about football,” McDonald said.

After McDonald’s father was better, he realized he still needed to invest in his future. His sister had served eight years in the military and encouraged him to enlist in the Army.

His first assignment was Camp Stanley, Uijeongbu, Korea, where the 5-foot, 8-inch, 180-pound McDonald continued his passion for football by playing on his unit’s team.

McDonald said he used the sport as a kind of coping tool while in Korea.

“Whenever I get in that mode of football, I kind of forget about the bad things, so it took me away from all that,” McDonald said.

McDonald now serves as the captain of the Killeen Knights, a local, semipro football team.

“He has amazing dedication,” said Kaijuan Zeigler, an Army and Air Force Exchange Service contractor and the Knights head coach. “He dedicates his body and his schooling. He learns the playbook.

“He asks questions to plays so he learns what he needs to do as well as other players on the team.”

McDonald said being named captain was an unexpected, but welcome, honor.

“It kind of took my breath away. I felt real good because my teammates, they kind of notice that leadership quality. ... I really do appreciate and accept the opportunity.”

His football goal is to be selected and play for the Canadian Football League or the Philadelphia Eagles, if drafted. With a large grin, McDonald said he would choose the Eagles first.

With his love and dedication to the sport, Bridges believes McDonald can make it where he wants.

“I know he wants to sign with CFL. I think he has what it takes to make it there,” Bridges said.

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