Fleet athlete can play corner or wideout

Having played centerfield in the San Francisco Giants organization before joining the Tide football squad last week, Scoop McDowell is obviously an excellent all-around athlete. <br><br>But there's no doubt where his best talent lies. "I've always been the fastest guy around," McDowell explained.

Timed at a blistering 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, McDowell was recognized as the fastest base runner in the Giants organization. "Even in Little League I was always the fastest," he said. "It'll take a little time to get my feet back up under me. But once I get that back, I should show everybody how fast I can get."

Combine that speed with his six-feet-plus frame, and Scoop McDowell would seem to be the prototype wide receiver. But he's equally interested in playing cornerback. "This staff is known for offense, but it all depends on where they'll need me and where I fit best," McDowell told BamaMag.com following his first workout last week. "With my skills I may be more of a commodity at one position."

Good friends with cornerback Fred Smoot of the Washington Redskins, McDowell would like a shot at the secondary. But he'll leave that decision to Head Coach Mike Price. "The coaches haven't told me yet," McDowell explained. "I'll play wherever they need me.

Shown exercising on the field with his new teammates, McDowell is an excellent athlete, but he'll need time to adjust to playing football again.

"Maybe I could play both (defensive back and receiver)."

The first name on McDowell's birth certificate is "Arturo," but he's been known as "Scoop" since elementary school (a nickname given to him by his brother). McDowell stands 6-1 and weighs 176 pounds. McDowell played defensive back and receiver for Forest Hill High School in Jackson, Mississippi, but baseball was his principal game as a youngster.

A first-round draft choice immediately out of high school (the 29th selection overall), McDowell gave baseball his best shot. When it became evident that his hitting would probably keep him from reaching the Major Leagues, McDowell contacted an old friend.

"Coach Melvin Smith (Bama's safeties coach last season) was a recruiter at Mississippi State when I was a senior in high school," McDowell explained. "He recruited a real good friend of mine named Fred Smoot. When I decided I wanted to play football, Fred made the contact with Melvin and Melvin got in contact with me."

With NCAA sanctions limiting scholarship numbers for Alabama the next two years, convincing former pro athletes like McDowell to walk on and play football is key. His baseball contract pays his college tuition, so McDowell will not count against the Tide's scholarship numbers.

Of course Bama's previous staff is now coaching at Texas A&M, and McDowell could easily have gone with them to College Station. But he chose to follow through with his commitment. "I visited here (last fall), but that (staff) left," McDowell said. "I had committed to Alabama, so I just decided to honor my commitment to The University and go ahead and enroll in school."

After taking care of his academic and medical paperwork, McDowell worked out with the Tide squad for the first time Thursday. "It was a little bit tough," he admitted. "I haven't lifted weights for football for about four years, but it went alright. I've been staying in shape for baseball, so I'm in pretty good shape."

He's in excellent "baseball shape" right now, but McDowell faces a different weight-training regimen to get in condition for football.

Is there a difference between conditioning for the two sports? "Oh yeah, there's a big difference," McDowell replied. "Strength-wise and feet-wise. My footwork has to get a little bit faster. I need to work on being more aggressive than you use for baseball."

A genuine baseball phenom in high school, McDowell will spend the next several months polishing up his rusty gridiron skills. "I haven't played football since my senior year in high school, which was 1998," he explained. "But after spring practice and by sometime in the summertime I should be ready."

Having spent the past four years in baseball's minor leagues, at 23-years-old McDowell will be older than most of his teammates at Alabama. But he's already made a good start making friends on the squad. "Mentality-wise, there may be a little difference," he acknowledged. "But these guys have good work habits. They have a lot of discipline. I know because I watched them play last year.

"My being here will just add more fuel to the fire."

EDITOR'S NOTE: McDowell meant it when he said he's willing to play wherever needed. But during an impromptu pass skel session in the Indoor Facility after Thursday's workouts, he practiced exclusively at cornerback.


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