McDowell taking advantage of opportunities

by - Senior Writer -
McDowell has five rushing touchdowns on the season

CLEMSON – Rod McDowell’s career path at Clemson, from highly-rated recruit to seldom-used backup and forgotten man to key contributor has been long and winding.

McDowell came to Clemson out of South Carolina’s Sumter High School, and he was rated as the No. 4 running back in the nation and No. 6 player in the state according to scouting site

McDowell red-shirted in 2009, and then saw his first extensive action following Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Sr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 195
Moncks Corner, SC

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’s injury in 2010, carrying the ball 32 times for 161 yards. Injuries and increased depth at running back for the Tigers limited McDowell in 2011, and he carried the ball just 14 times for 63 yards.

The lack of playing time and the injuries caused McDowell to wonder if he would ever live up to the potential he knew had inside of him, and it was then that he decided that he would buy into what offensive coordinator Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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was asking of him.

“It really is about being consistent and being healthy,” McDowell said. “The last two years, I had an ankle injury and a concussion, and I just wasn’t consistent. This year, I just bought into what Coach Morris wanted me to do. I got in the weight room, I studied my opponents, I worked on my pass blocking, running the ball harder and just getting better as a player.”

The results have shown on the field, and McDowell currently sits as a solid second option behind Ellington, moving ahead of fellow back D.J. HowardD.J. Howard
RS So. Running Back
#22 5-11, 195
Lincoln, AL

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, who has battled a shoulder injury. McDowell already has 31 carries for 154 yards, and is second on the team with five rushing touchdowns.

McDowell says he often wondered if he would get another chance, but said he knew that playing time was up to one person – Rod McDowell.

“I just decided to buy in,” he said. “At the beginning, I got disappointed that I wasn’t seeing any playing time, but I prayed about it. And the coaches – they stuck with me. They kept pushing me and telling me what I needed to do, so I bought into it.”

McDowell credits his health and the arrival of running backs coach Tony ElliottTony Elliott
Assistant Coach / Running Backs
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as two key factors in his resurgence.

“After I got healthy and after Coach Elliott got here, we sat down and talked about what he expected out of me,” McDowell said. “He said I had to get better. Coach Morris told me what he wanted out of me, and then Coach [Dabo] Swinney told me he wanted me to improve on the little things.”

McDowell took all of the advice to heart, and now is not only a solid option for 2012 but might just have an edge heading into 2013.

“It’s a blessing. I am just going to stay humble. One thing I pride myself on is staying humble,” he said. “At the end of the day, I couldn’t have done any of this without my offensive line, without God, and without my coaches sticking by me. I am thankful, but I know I just have to work.”

McDowell then said he wanted to also carry on Clemson’s running back tradition.

“When I got here my freshman year, they [the older running backs] threw me into the fire,” he said. “They told me that coming to Clemson and being a running back, they take pride in that. They told me I had to run hard and make plays. Being a running back at Clemson is a tradition.”

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