If you were to ask anyone who is involved with high school football recruiting if they have ever heard a story as bizarre as Malik McDowell’s, the response would be a universal and resounding no. The reason? His mom played as big a role in his recruiting as he did.
McDowell, a five-star defensive lineman recruit out of Southfield High, had narrowed his list of college choices down to Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State and Michigan State. He and his parents visited the schools and did their due diligence, something that every big-time high school recruit does. National Signing Day eventually rolled around and it was time for McDowell to tell the world where he would be taking his talents.
His decision brought a smile to Spartan fans as he announced his intention to play for Mark Dantonio at Michigan State. This is usually the point where Dantonio would be able to exhale and bask in the glory of reeling in a nationally renowned recruit; but the excitement hadn’t even begun yet.
After announcing their college choice on National Signing Day recruits will then fax over their signed letter of intent, which makes their signing official. Unfortunately for McDowell, that letter of intent also needed to include a signature from his legal guardian since he wasn’t yet 18. This was unfortunate because his sole legal guardian, his mother Joya Crowe, was dead set against her son attending Michigan State.
Crowe didn’t want her son to play at MSU because of a “bad experience” she had while visiting and because she believed there was too much social life in East Lansing. While it isn’t uncommon for a mother to disagree with their son’s college choice, ultimately most parents would support their child’s decision and allow them to make their own choice. Ironically enough, McDowell’s father, who doesn’t have any custody of him, immediately came out and supported Malik’s decision.
The conflict between McDowell and his mother went on for two months as Spartan fans waited nervously to hear any kind of news. Initially there was only bad news as McDowell was reportedly going to take another visit to Ohio State shortly after announcing his decision on National Signing Day.
This bizzarre tale finally reached a crescendo on April 1st (no day could be more appropriate than April Fools Day) which was the deadline for McDowell to send in his letter of intent, complete with his and his mother’s signatures. At 11:42 p.m. just 18 minutes before the deadline, McDowell sent his papers in and officially became a Spartan.
The saga was finally over, McDowell would be playing for Michigan State in the fall. The only thing left to figure out is just how much of an impact he will make this season.
At 6-foot-6, 292 pounds McDowell has the size to play as a freshman, and Mark Dantonio came out and said just that after he signed his letter of intent. His athleticism is also good enough to get him on the field this fall, but the Spartan’s ridiculous depth at defensive end could limit his playing time. He could see time on the interior of the defensive line, where the Spartans aren’t as stacked with playmakers. The possibility of a defensive front of McDowell, Marcus Rush and Shilique Calhoun probably already has Pat Narduzzi’s mouth watering.
Mark Dantonio and his coaching staff have built a successful football program at Michigan State mostly by developing underappreciated two and three-star recruits and turning them into big time players. Now with a Rose Bowl victory under his belt, Dantonio has been able to land one of the top recruits in the entire country. Spartan fans should be counting down the days until they get to see what Dantonio and company can do with a talent like McDowell.
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