Kieran McDonaghKieran McDonagh says a lot of his fellow Portland State students don’t realize he plays football for the Vikings. And when they find out, they almost never guess that the 6-2, 245-pound sophomore is the quarterback.

“It doesn’t really bother me that much,” McDonagh says. “I just go to class like everyone else.”

Vikings coach Nigel Burton says McDonagh’s humble attitude is one of the attributes that allowed him to go from Skyview High in Vancouver one year to starting in the Big Sky Conference the next.

“He was the same guy (after being named the Vikings’ 2012 starter),” Burton says. “And he understands the job isn’t his. He has to earn it and keep it. Our system and the way we grade and do things, that keeps pretty much anyone from getting a big head. That’s not really Kieran’s style, anyway. And that endears him to his teammates.”

McDonagh says he didn’t expect to be handed the keys to the Viking offense last year.

“I had intensions to grayshirt and eventually to redshirt,” he says. “A week before the first game, Coach pulled me into his office and told me I was going to start on Saturday. I called my parents right away, and they were ecstatic.”

McDonagh became the first PSU true freshman quarterback to start his first career game since at least 1950. He went on to start all 11 games, passing for 2,187 yards and 15 touchdowns and running for 406 yards and nine touchdowns.

“The game has slowed down for me,” he says. “I didn’t realize how fast the game was going to be going. With that year under my belt, I got experience, and now I know how to deal with those high-pressure situations.”

McDonagh says he worked hard in the weight room during the offseason, but walks a fine line between being strong and durable and losing speed.

“I’m just a naturally bigger guy,” he says. “I like the way I run right now. My coaches have always said that as long as I could perform I could play quarterback rather than another position. (Offensive coordinator Bruce) Barnum told me that before I came here.

“I do a lot of speed work, and I try to make sure I never get too heavy. Winter is the time to bulk up, but then going into spring ball, you slim down and get more speed.”

Burton says McDonagh had a difficult time speaking in front of the team a year ago. The coach challenged him after the 2012 season to become more of a leader.

“He’s speaking in front of the whole team, which is the first step,” Burton says. “He wasn’t comfortable doing that last year, and understandably so. Now he’s taking charge of certain things.”

Burton also has been impressed with McDonagh on the field.

“I’m seeing him get a little better every day,” Burton says. “His accuracy has improved. That comes with time and

the work he’s put in with his receivers.”

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