During a time where good news is surely needed in East Lansing, the Michigan State football program recently landed a big-time recruit in Michael Dowell, who is next up in our commitment spotlight series.
I was thankful to have an opportunity to talk with Dowell over the phone this week. He and I had a great conversation about why he chose to join the Spartans, what the process has been like so far, his relationship with the coaching staff and more.
Dowell, a three-star defensive back, announced his commitment to the Spartans on Memorial Day. He is the latest class of 2018 prospect to do so – joining Trenton Gillison, Xavier Henderson, Theo Day, Christian Jackson and Edward Warinner.
So, why did Dowell choose to wear green and white on Saturdays?
“I just feel like Michigan State is the best place for me,” Dowell said. “I like the program that Coach (Mark) Dantonio has built. They seem like they’re going to the right place. Coach (Harlon) Barnett and the whole coaching staff are very supportive.
“You know, when I went up there on my visit, I just felt that that was the school for me.”
Recruiting wise, Scout.com lists him as a four-star recruit, and as the No. 1 ranked safety in both Ohio and the entire Midwest. Meanwhile, the 247Sports Composite gives him three stars, and ranks him as the No. 29 safety in the 2018 class, and the No. 17 player in Ohio (at any position).
Rivals.com on the other hand, correctly lists him as a cornerback. He is ranked as a three-star prospect on that website and the No. 36 ranked cornerback in the 2018 class.
Dowell, who stands 6-feet-1-inch tall and weighs 190 pounds, will play cornerback during his senior season at St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio. Cornerback is also the position the Michigan State coaching staff wants him at.
In addition to those reasons mentioned above, Dowell also has a special connection to Michigan State University and its football program, as his brothers, Andrew and David, are already members of the roster.
When asked if his brothers being there influenced his decision at all, or made him more familiar with the East Lansing campus and football team, he had this to say:
“Oh, yeah, for sure! You know, they never really pushed for Michigan State. They just pushed for me to make the right decision for me. And it just happened to be that Michigan State was the right decision.”
Dowell went on to elaborate a bit on why Michigan State was right for him, and when he decided it was where he wanted to be.
“I actually decided on Michigan State when I went to The Opening Regionals (a Nike Football camp) in Washington D.C. I felt a little uncomfortable; I didn’t really know a lot of kids there because I’m from Ohio.
“I just realized, why work through the same feeling in college when I can go to a college I’m really familiar with. It’s really close to a lot of things I’ve been doing throughout my life, so I decided to go with Michigan State. “
Dowell stated throughout the interview that he felt the coaching staff was highly supportive, and the right coaches for him.
He, like many other prospects, continues to build on his relationship with Coach Dantanio throughout the process leading up to his enrollment.
“You know, Coach Dantonio seems to be very straight-forward,” Dowell said. “One thing he said to me that stuck was to ‘take my time,’ and that helped me realize I can get into Michigan State. That was really important to me to know the type of program he has built, and the education I’ll receive there.”
Of course, making the move to college from high school isn’t always easy. New surroundings, more difficult classes and a totally different speed of football can be hard for freshman to digest. So, what will be the hardest part about transitioning to the college game for Dowell? Allow him to explain below.
“I think the hardest thing about Michigan State is just going to be adjusting to everything I do because I know how fast they go. I know they put new stuff in every day. And I know there is a big separation between the older guys and newer guys (in terms of adjusting).”
With that said, Dowell has complete confidence in his playing ability. What I am also able to draw from my conversation with him is that he is a high character, high effort kid. Not just on the gridiron, but in every aspect of his life.
When asked what his best traits were, Dowell had this to say:
“If I get beat, I’m always going to pick myself up,” Dowell said. “But that’s not my best trait as a football player, that’s my best trait as a person. My best trait as a football player, at cornerback, is to be able to high point the ball and go get it out of the air.
“I also think I have really good technique. I just have to keep bringing that physical mentality and be the best cornerback I can be for St. Edward High School.”
Every MSU fan is aware of where the program currently stands. It was a rough season on the field last year, winning only three games. It has been an even tougher offseason, as controversy and turmoil have engulfed this program.
Still, Dowell’s outlook for the MSU football program remains positive, and he understands what is in his control and what is not.
“For me, I just need to do everything that I can do to help,” Dowell said. I feel like the guys that Michigan State is bringing in right now, you know, they’re good guys. I talked to a lot of kids in my class and we just seem to get together pretty well. I feel like we all have the same motto and the same goals and are headed toward the right direction.”
He also knows that there is likely to be strong competition in the defensive backfield once he gets to Michigan State.
He understands that it’s not going to be easy to win a starting job right away, and he is more than willing to put in the necessary work and wait for his time to shine. However, his competitive spirit will never waver.
“I haven’t really thought about (the competition) too much yet,” Dowell said. “One reason is because I’m really focused on my season at St. Edward High School. As far as Michigan State next year, I know they have a lot of key players. A lot of defensive backs and corners that are good.
“You know I’m not looking to go there and expect to start. Obviously, I’m going to bust my butt to be the best player I can, and if there’s an opportunity to start or bring me on the field, I’ll be happy to do that. But by all means, I will be trying to go out there and start, but it’s not like a disappointment type thing (if I don’t).”
Dowell brings up an intriguing point. For young student athletes coming out of high school, the excitement of the recruiting process and the glamour of playing for a storied football program may go to the heads of big-time recruits, and can easily disrupt their focus at the high school level. Much like Gillison, that is not the case with Dowell.
St. Edward High School won back-to-back state championships in 2014 and 2015. It is Dowell’s goal to get them back there in the fall of 2017 and end his senior season on the highest note possible.
“At St. Edward High School, our biggest motto is excellence. In the classroom, in our sports and in everything we do,” Dowell said. “So I try to be excellent on the field. You know, making blocks on kickoff return or running down on kickoff, or guarding the other team’s best receiver.
“Whatever I can do for the team to get us back to the state championship, I plan to do that. I’m in a good place at St. Edward High School. St. Ed is the reason why I’m in the position I’m in right now.”
My takeaways on Dowell are that he is humble, focused and a true team player. He is a player you want in your locker room. The exact kind of player Michigan State needs right now.
Perhaps the Dowell Brothers will be the next great football family to play at Spartan Stadium. I wish them all future success.
“I am just really blessed and thankful to have this opportunity I have right know,” Dowell said. When I get to Michigan State I plan to make some noise and help the Spartans any way I can.”
For a better sense of how Dowell plays the game, check out his Hudl highlight video below. According to the video, he had 40 tackles, 14 pass breakups, one fumble recovery and one sack as a junior last season.