|by David Hood|
“Hot Rod” came to Clemson out of South Carolina’s Sumter High School with a ton of expectations after being rated as the No. 25 player out of high school by ESPN and running for almost 2,000 yards during a Shrine Bowl senior season.
He red-shirted in 2009, and played sparingly in both 2010 and 2011, carrying the ball a combined 46 times for 224 yards over the two seasons as he played behind the likes of C.J. Spiller, Jamie Harper and then Andre Ellington.
Last season, however, McDowell finally broke through, ascending to second on the depth chart ahead of D.J. Howard. He carried the ball 76 times for 424 yards and a sparkling 5.6 yards per carry average during the regular season.
McDowell entered spring practice as number one on the depth chart – a position he knows has been a long time coming – and hopes his story can be an inspiration to younger players.
“I hope it tells everybody that you can go through struggles,” he said. “You just have to be patient. And when it’s my time, I have to kick the door open. I want to have fun with them and show them what the real Rod McDowell is all about.”
He then said that he wanted everybody to know that he is still at Clemson, and that he is not only ready to make an impact in 2013, he wants to be a team leader on and off the field.
McDowell said it is easy to stay humble, because he has a coach at home who never stops pushing him to be a better person, player and student.
“My mom is in my ear, 24-7,” McDowell said. “If it isn’t about football, it’s about academics. I just sit down and listen to her, because at the end of the day she isn’t going to steer me wrong.”
I asked McDowell if he had set goals for himself for his senior season, and he said no.
“I am at a point that I don’t set goals, I set targets,” he said. “Once you set a goal and you reach it, then you have to wonder what’s next. That is why I set targets, because once you reach a target, there is another one after that. This year I want to be a thousand or more yard rusher, and have 10 or 15 touchdowns. I want to be that player that can be counted on both on the field and off the field.”
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org