By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
Rod McDowell has plenty of reasons to be excited about the start of the 2013 season.
The caliber of opponent Georgia provides is a reason for enthusiasm and anticipation. The confidence that comes from having Chad Morris as a schemer and play-caller is a reason to feel good. The promise of a crowd fueled by the desire to see greatness unfold before its eyes is a reason to get pumped up about the season beginning.
But perhaps the most important factor in McDowell’s excitement can be found with a quick look at the depth chart.
For years, McDowell has waited for a chance to prove himself. Time and time again, he saw his name buried on the depth chart, and it wasn’t always on there at all.
The intelligent choice for McDowell, according to some, was to pursue his dreams elsewhere.
“People would be like, ‘Oh, you should walk away, You should transfer,’” he said.
“But I am not a quitter.”
It was a statement born out of defiance, a spirit that allowed him to withstand the mounting weight of every blue-chip recruit brought in to beat him out and every offseason of hard work gone seemingly unnoticed.
When talking about his bump up to the top of the depth chart, the stock response for McDowell might have been to talk about spending more time in the film room or getting stronger or having a better understanding of the offense or learning from the great backs that have gone before him.
But the Tiger tailback chose a different route.
“Honestly, it has nothing to do with football,” he explained. “It’s my faith.”
McDowell credits position coach Tony Elliott with revitalizing him spiritually, which he says allowed him to mature on the football field while he matured as a person.
“Everything has gotten easier,” he said. “My game has started to rise, as far as me learning the offense. When you have that one-on-one with your position coach, everything is easier.”
Certainly, McDowell has become the kind of player coaches can count on with the number-one running back label. The task he has in front of him is far from a simple one.
All throughout camp, offensive linemen have discussed how different Georgia’s scheme is than any other team the Tigers have faced in the recent past. McDowell feels that way as well, and his responsibilities in the running game, receiving the ball out of the backfield, and in pass protection will require him to be operating at peak performance level on Saturday.
For a guy who has spent countless Saturdays watching games over the past four years, the promise of seeing the first offensive snap of the season from between the lines also serves as a reminder that nothing is certain and he still has to work hard to make all the blood, sweat, and tears worthwhile.
“I’m still the same humble dude,” he said. “I haven’t arrived yet. My mindset is that I’m still really battling for a job. Even thought the season is starting, anybody can be starting at running back.”
This week, McDowell is that guy. With one more chance to leave a mark, he knows how high the stakes are—not just for him, but for the whole Clemson program.
“This is my last go-around,” he said. “This is my last time, for an opening game, running down the hill with my brothers and the fans and just having fun.”