Rod McDowell overcomes adversity to stake a claim as a starter

by - Senior Writer -
McDowell said he looks at his life as a blessing, and cherishes every moment on the football field

CLEMSON – The adversity that Rod McDowell has faced during his time at Clemson has been nothing compared to the adversity he faced as a child. Multiple surgeries, casts, braces and the looks of his friends and classmates added to that adversity. Classmates and neighborhood kids would see the casts and braces and wonder about the kid who was different than the rest.

Rod McDowell persevered.

He still perseveres, and he is still different, qualities that have pushed him to the top of the running back depth chart at Clemson, despite being born with clubfoot.

Clubfoot is a birth defect in which the baby's foot is twisted out of shape or position. In clubfoot, the tissues connecting the muscles to the bone (tendons) are shorter than usual. The term "clubfoot" refers to the way the foot is positioned at a sharp angle to the ankle, like the head of a golf club.

McDowell endured surgeries to correct the problem. Then the doctors told his mother, Roxanne McDowell, that he needed an additional surgery with devastating side effects.

“The doctor told my mother that he wanted me to have the surgery and she told him no,” McDowell told TigerNet early last week. “Because if they had done surgery again, I would have never walked or run. My mother told him we were going to pray about it.”

Roxanne trusted her faith, and trusted that she had made the right decision for her son.

It was the right decision.

“Now you look at me, and I am a running back at Clemson University,” McDowell said. “And I just look at that as a blessing. If my mom didn’t pray for me and didn’t tell the doctor no, then I wouldn’t be playing football. I look at every day as blessing that I am allowed to play football. I want to show people that have the same disability that I have that they can do anything. I hope that I can give them hope that they can walk and run.”

Over Clemson’s spring break last week, McDowell got to meet with a little boy in his own neighborhood who is facing that same challenge.

“When I went home to Willow Drive this past weekend, I found out that this little boy named Hunter is having the same surgery I had,” McDowell said. “I think he is in the fifth grade. The chance he will never walk or run again is the same chance I had. It turns out he is a big fan of mine, and a big fan of Clemson, so when I saw him it was just a blessing to see his face. I am very excited, humbled and blessed to have the opportunity to tell him my story.”

Seeing Hunter brought back memories of McDowell’s own childhood, and the miracle that occurred when he no longer needed the casts or braces.

“I had to have a brace on, and then a cast,” McDowell said. “And I was always wanting to run around, and I was always kind of hyper. And then it took a while for me to walk. I broke out of the cast while running, and then when I would run around everybody was kind of shocked. When I was in high school and they took physicals, they would look and see that I had a clubfoot and they would say, ‘You are not supposed to be running around and doing some of this stuff.’ But I did it.”
The young football player running out of his cast and braces drew natural comparisons to the movie Forrest Gump, where the main character runs out of his braces and onto a football career at Alabama.

McDowell took the ribbing good-naturedly.

“When I was little we talked about it, and I would sit back and watch the movie and laugh about it,” he said. “That is kind of similar to it. I take it as a joke. “

McDowell said he doesn’t look at the way he was born as an issue, or even a challenge.

“It is a blessing. It doesn’t hold me back. I am fine,” he said. “People might think it is my weak leg, but it is fine. I make cuts on that leg.”

And now, he sits on precipice of a summer campaign that could be special.

“I came here and I got discouraged. But guys told me and my mom told me and even Coach [Dabo] Swinney told me to stay positive, that my chance is coming,” he said. “I don’t care about being the number one running back. That doesn’t mean anything to me. I am a playmaker, I just want to go out and make plays. That is my mindset heading into this season.”

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