CLEMSON – Rod McDowell’s story is well-known by now, but if you need a quick summary…
The Sumter native was born with a clubfoot that he had to have surgeries, casts placed and braces to correct.
In high school, McDowell signed with Clemson as the No. 4 back in the nation and sixth-best prospect in the state per Rivals.
But through three years on campus, he had only 46 carries for 244 yards – just over 100 snaps – sitting behind C.J. Spiller, then Jamie Harper, Andre Ellington and his opportunity looked like it never was going to come. Going into his junior season, McDowell says he was upfront with the coaches about thoughts of transferring. They told him to be patient and his time was coming...and he trusted them.
”The coaches we have here, they are real coaches,” McDowell said. “I’m not sitting here boasting about my head coach or nothing like that, but honestly I think I have a godly head coach that’s going to keep it one hundred on and off the field.”
Last season, McDowell moved into his highest spot yet on the depth chart – No. 2 – leading the group with 5.4 yards per carry.
Saturday night against Georgia then was the culmination of his Clemson career.
“It was worth the wait and I feel like I have the testimony for young kids out there,” said McDowell, whose 132 rushing yards rank second in the ACC after week one. “When times get hard, don’t think about running away. If you really want something, work hard for it no matter what comes your way. You just have to really want it.”
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who came in at the same time as McDowell in 2009, couldn’t be happier for him.
McDowell shows out with opportunity
“Getting a chance to see a guy who waits – who’s selfless and for him to come out and have a performance like that on a national stage – it just makes you that much more happy,” Boyd said. “It couldn’t have happened to a better guy and teammate. It’s going to be a special season for him.”
The senior tailback was just soaking up the Death Valley environment.
“It was a wonderful feeling. I was like ‘wow,’” McDowell said. “The atmosphere, fans and key players really stepped up for us. The offensive linemen really opened up some holes for me. The whole experience was very overwhelming.”
While he was saying wow, he was making his teammates and the crowd say “whoa” with ankle-breaking jukes and one particular spin move.
“That was sweet,” sophomore running back Zac Brooks said. “I oohed when I saw it (on film).”
Brooks says in his almost two years on campus with “Hot Rod” he’s seen a transformation.
“He leads by example,” Brooks said. “I’ve seen Rod grow a lot since last year. From what I’ve heard, Rod’s always been the joker and he still is a funny guy, but you can see the maturity in him and him trying to be more of an idol that we can look up to. Being more of a big brother to us.”
McDowell says the road here is what’s going to shape what Tiger fans see this season.
“When you want to be great, you can’t just walk away from greatness,” he said. “You got to stay down and soak it in. I just stayed here at Clemson and worked hard. Not just football, but as a person and got my degree and once I got that – now it’s my turn.
“It’s time for me to step up to the plate.”