Malik McDowell’s football life has never been far from difficulties. To call it a rollercoaster would not only be cliché, but an understatement.
Now, just over a year after being drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, McDowell is out of the league having never played a down. He was officially waived by the Seattle Seahawks Thursday afternoon with a non-football injury.
Last season, the Seahawks drafted McDowell with their first pick in the draft, the 35th overall pick. Almost exactly one year ago to the week, McDowell was injured in an ATV accident. According to Yahoo’s Charles Robinson, McDowell suffered “extensive brain/eye trauma.” Officially, McDowell missed all of last season due to a concussion.
As the process goes forward, we’ll learn more about the injuries suffered by #Seahawks Malik McDowell. Team has been careful to keep everything under wraps. Extensive brain/eye trauma. It was clear from the moment of injury that it was an extremely long shot he’d ever play again.— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) April 17, 2018
The first report that Seattle was prepared to part ways with McDowell came in April. However, he could not be officially waived until he had been medically cleared.
Shortly after his accident, McDowell posted a message on Twitter saying the injury was not life or career threatening and that he would be back on the field in the near future.
McDowell first made waves on the national stage before even setting foot on the Michigan State campus. A Southfield High School standout, McDowell was one of the top prospects in the country. While he had a clear desire to attend MSU, his mother was completely against the idea.
Joya Crowe, McDowell’s mother, not only refused to attend McDowell’s signing ceremony but also refused to sign his national letter of intent. Her feelings stemmed from a personal issue on the MSU campus when she was younger. It wasn’t until two months after McDowell signed his LOI that his mother signed off and McDowell was able to start his MSU career.
On the field, McDowell immediately emerged as a star. A force on the defensive line, McDowell recorded 1.5 sacks and 13 tackles his freshman year in 2014. The following season was his most dominant, with 4.5 sacks, 41 tackles and 13 tackles for a loss.
Heading into his junior year, McDowell was expected to set himself up for an early first-round draft selection. However, just as the Spartans took a giant step backwards as a team, so did McDowell. There were explanations for the drop in production, less help around him, more focus on stopping the defensive lineman, forced to play in different positions. But whatever the reason, McDowell only recorded a sack and-a-half in 2016. That was enough to drop him out of the first round to the early second round for Seattle.
McDowell’s career may not be over. The defensive lineman just turned 20 last month and is still years away from his physical prime. However, if the injury was severe enough for the Seahawks to complete cut ties after only one season, it would seem an enormous task to get back in the league.
McDowell’s health on a personal level is most important, of course. With the inherent risk to any football player’s head and brain, rushing back from an off-the-field brain injury could be significantly more damaging.