McDonald enrolled at the University of Idaho in Moscow in 1963 and his family moved north from Caldwell to nearby Lewiston. On the mandatory freshman team his first semester, he led the Vandals to convincing wins over the freshman teams of Washington (32–18) and Washington State (36–0). (Freshmen were ineligible for NCAA varsity participation until the early 1970s.) McDonald missed the first three games of his sophomore season after tearing his Achilles tendon in a pick-up basketball game in late June. As a speedy fullback for the varsity as a sophomore, he was dubbed "Thunder Ray" after his first Battle of the Palouse game the first Vandal victory over neighboring WSU in a decade. (Idaho repeated over the Cougars in Pullman in 1965 for the first time in forty years, and would've swept three straight, but lost a late lead in the Moscow mud in 1966).
As a senior in 1966, he led the nation in rushing with 1,329 yards, capping it with 255 yards in his final game. At an imposing 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) and 248 lb (112 kg), he was the dominant player in the Big Sky Conference, and was the leading rusher for Idaho in all three years of eligibility (1964–66), averaging over 100 yards rushing per game for his collegiate career. He rushed for 36 touchdowns and 2,916 yards in 27 games played as a Vandal, an average of 108 yards per game.
In 1968, he was arrested by Washington, D.C. police for having sex with a man in public. Injuries also played a part in cutting short his career and by 1969 he was out of pro football.
McDonald eventually became a junior high music teacher. After an extended battle, he died of complications due to AIDS at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, on May 4, 1993, three days before his 49th birthday, with a body weight less than half of his NFL playing weight. The cause of death was originally reported as complications from sickle cell anemia.
The 1967 National Football League draft was conducted March 14–15, 1967, at the Gotham Hotel in New York City. It was the first common draft with the AFL, part of the AFL–NFL merger agreement of June 1966.
This draft was delayed as new guidelines were established; redshirt (or "future") players were no longer eligible. It began on a Tuesday in mid-March; the previous two years the leagues held their separate drafts on the final Saturday of November, immediately following the college football regular season.
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