By David Hood
CLEMSON — Rod McDowell has a message for everyone who thinks he might have graduated or won’t be a factor in the Clemson backfield this fall: He is still here, and he is going to give it his all.
McDowell said Friday night he hopes his story — a study in patience — can be an inspiration for some of the team’s younger players.
“I hope it tells everybody that you can go through struggles,” he said. “You just have to be patient. And when it’s my time, I have to kick the door open. I want to have fun with them and show them what the real Rod McDowell is all about.”
The man they call Hot Rod came to Clemson out of South Carolina’s Sumter High School with a ton of expectations after being rated as the No. 25 player out of high school by ESPN and running for almost 2,000 yards during a Shrine Bowl senior season.
McDowell red-shirted in 2009 and played sparingly in both 2010 and 2011, carrying the ball a combined 46 times for 224 yards over the two seasons as he played behind the likes of C.J. Spiller, Jamie Harper and then Andre Ellington.
McDowell finally broke through in 2012, overtaking the oft-injured D.J. Howard on the depth chart behind Ellington, carrying the ball 76 times for 424 yards and a sparkling 5.6 yards per carry average during the regular season.
He said he wanted everybody to know he is still at Clemson, and that he is not only ready to make an impact in 2013, he wants to be a team leader on and off the field.
“I just want to take what I learned from Andre, be humble and go in there and do the little things right,” he said. “I don’t have to be vocal all the time or just on the field. I just have to make plays and show them I can be counted on. I also want to show them I am still here, that I am still with the program and we are going to go out there this season and have fun.”
He then said he never has to worry about losing sight of his goals because he has a coach at home who never stops pushing him to be a better person, player and student.
“My mom is in my ear, 24-7,” he said. “If it isn’t about football, it’s about academics. I just sit down and listen to her, because at the end of the day she isn’t going to steer me wrong.”
McDowell was asked if he had set goals for himself for his senior season, and he said no.
“I am at a point that I don’t set goals, I set targets,” he said. “Once you set a goal and you reach it, then you have to wonder what’s next. That is why I set targets, because once you reach a target, there is another one after that. This year I want to be a 1,000 or more yard rusher, and have 10 or 15 touchdowns. I want to be that player that can be counted on both on the field and off the field.”