Quite frankly, from this perspective, McDowell appeared to be on track for a two-year stop at a place like Coastal Carolina or Wofford, or one of the other in-state programs that regularly competes for a spot in the FCS playoffs.
Shoot, even he thought that was going to happen. In the months and years since January of 2012, McDowell has admitted that he considered transferring after his 2011 season ended.
Had he chosen to take that route, no one would have blamed him. The six snaps he played against West Virginia in the Orange Bowl matched the total number he played in the entire month of November.
Against the Mountaineers, McDowell rushed four times for 34 yards and a touchdown. His redshirt sophomore season ended with 14 carries for 63 yards and a score.
While the defection of Mike Bellamy certainly made room for McDowell behind Andre Ellington in 2012, McDowell still had to fend of D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks for carries that season. And he did. McDowell found new life as a junior, racking up career bests in carries , yards  and touchdowns [five] as the No. 2 man behind Ellington.
In 2013, the starting job was McDowell's start to finish, from Jan. 1 all the way through the sweet end in Miami when he wrapped up his senior season when he became the 12th player in school history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.
He wanted that number, wanted it bad. Even if those not conditioned to root for him had trouble not pulling for Hot Rod finished with 1,025.
When Clemson stat guru and sports information extraordinaire Tim Bourret announced to those within ear shot of the Sun Life Stadium press box that McDowell was over 1,000, it proved once again that underdogs still have a place in this game.
"It's a blessing, really. To where we came from five years ago, to where we're at now, it really stamps a closing on my chapter," McDowell said, after the game.
"It's a blessing knowing that I'm the third back, in back-to-back-to-back seasons, it really means a lot. Then, on a big stage like this, like coach Swinney said, he first team in the state of South Carolina to win a BCS, the first team in South Carolina to win a BCS. But, at the end of the day, I've got to give it up to the grace of God."
McDowell's resolve to start what he started personifies what his team showed in the final BCS edition of the Orange Bowl.
"We're not going to give up, no matter what," McDowell said. "On a big stage like this…in a game like this, that's how you want to establish Clemson is here.
"That stamps our program. At the end of the day, the offensive linemen, the defense, Sammy [Watkins] [and] me -- we did a phenomenal job tonight representing Clemson."
With 12 carries for 69 yards and four catches for 32 yards that night, McDowell more than earned the right to speak so highly of himself.
End of the line for Hot Rod
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