"It is a great school, good coaches, a great business school. I felt I could have a lot of success with that. And then playing in the Big 10, playing for a school with all that history. My mom went to school there, so closeness to home was also important. It seemed like a good choice to me."
The Hinsdale Central product feels a sense of relief with the decision out of the way.
"Yeah, I definitely would say so. It was getting kind of stressful. Things weren't progressing as I had anticipated, so I'm pretty glad to have it all over with."
Left tackles must protect a quarterback's backside against speedy defensive ends, so they must have the quickness and lateral explosiveness to do that effectively. McDowell is a left tackle at his high school, and he has been told he will play the equivalent position for the Illini.
"In their system, they have a weak tackle and a strong tackle. They said I'd probably be playing the weak tackle, which is not to the tight end side."
McDowell is hoping for a good season despite an opening game loss to the defending 7A state champ.
"We are 1-1. We lost in week one to Wheaton Warrenville South, but then we beat Proviso East last Saturday."
He feels good about his personal effort so far this season.
"I need to improve on my assignments a little bit and dominating my man, but I think I'm doing pretty well."
The 6'-5", 280 pounder expands on the things he wants to work on and improve.
"Definitely my physicality on the run blocking, finishing plays and finishing the defensive lineman and linebacker. I think I need to make some improvements on the bull rush pass blocking. That's probably my weak spot on pass blocking."
Hinsdale Central teammate Jack Allen, a center, has committed to Michigan State. McDowell says there is already a friendly rivalry developing.
"I was just having a little bit of an argument with him about who's gonna be beating who whenever we play. So we've gotten that started."
McDowell becomes the fifth offensive lineman to commit to Illinois for the 2011 signing class.