The journey for Malik McDowell getting to Michigan State was quite the story. The top player in the state of Michigan and one of the highest recruited players in the country, McDowell could have chose any school he wanted.
After saying he wanted to attend Michigan State, there was some issues with his parents now wanting him to come here, for whatever reason. It turned into a national story that in the end, resulted with his parents agreeing to let him come here.
Fast-forward to this spring, and a lot has happened for McDowell. He saw action in every game for the Spartan defense last year as a reserve defensive lineman, and even got the start in the Spartans’ Cotton Bowl victory over Baylor.
He was named a freshman All-American, and showed flashes of why he was such a highly recruited player.
Heading into the 2015 season, McDowell is expected to become a full-time starter at the nose guard position, and he thinks this year’s defensive line can be even better than next year.
“Easily, way better,” McDowell said. “Only one person left, Marcus Rush. So, we just worked with each other all offseason, worked with each other during spring, and have just been going hard. I’ve never been a part of a defensive line like this. It’s going to be something special.”
When you look at McDowell, you can see why his natural athletic ability allows him to dominate the game whenever he wants. He’s bigger than almost everyone on the field, and moves incredibly well for someone of his size.
Still, despite his freakish athletic gifts, McDowell says there are a lot of things that he and defensive line coach Ron Burton are working on to improve his game.
“Keep using my hands and getting off the ball every time,” McDowell said. “I tend to sometimes, when the offensive is line is talking or does a change up, I try to do something else outside of the thing. If it works, it works, but if it doesn’t they get on me about it.”
He also mentioned that going against Spartan center Jack Allen in practice, who was a first team All-American last season, is some of the best experience he can get.
“I’ve never played against a center as good as him,” McDowell said. “Not a center we played last year was as good as Jack.”
Along with improving on the football field, McDowell has made it a goal to improve himself off the field as well.
McDowell said that fifth-year Lawrence Thomas, a fellow Detroit-native and a former five-star recruit like McDowell, has taken him under his wing and has showed him how to become a better football player.
“He talked to me about being more mature on the field and off the field,” McDowell said. “Just starting on football a lot harder than what I was doing last year. We hit film every day. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t watch film together.”
All the hard work appears to be paying off for McDowell, who made some noise in the Spartans’ first spring scrimmage.
Midway through the scrimmage, with the offense driving, McDowell made one of the plays of the scrimmage when he was a part of a goal line stand that stopped the offense and later went on to help the defense win the scrimmage.
“We were in our heavy package, and pretty much I was head up with Jack (Allen),” McDowell said. “Snapped the ball, came right off full-extension, and Madre (London) was hitting the hole. I stuck my arm, grabbed him, and it was a pile-up from there. They didn’t get in.”
As for this upcoming sophomore season for McDowell, he says along with helping his team win a championship, he has one main goal.
“All-American again,” McDowell said. “This is the season that decides a lot for me, so it’s time to have a good year.”