Asked why he made such an imposing trek just to attend a summer camp, McDowell replied, "My coaches convinced me."
McDowell must have had considerable interest in the Big Orange without prodding from Covington's coaching staff, however. After all, he can't sign a college scholarship for 31 months ... February of 2014. That's because Garrald McDowell just completed his freshman year of high school and will be a sophomore this fall.
For one so young, McDowell already is an impressive physical specimen. packing 233 well-proportioned pounds on a 6-0 frame. He says the Vols project him to be a defensive lineman by the time he's ready to enroll at college in the fall of 2014.
"They're talking to me about defensive end," he said.
McDowell participated with the other defensive line candidates at the UT camp and thoroughly enjoyed himself.
"I liked it," he said. "It was pretty fun. I got better moves and everything."
Defensive linemen who can sack the quarterback are at a premium in today's game, and McDowell understands this. He said the most enjoyable part of the Vol camp was "The competition with the pass rush."
Vol coaches apparently made a very favorable first impression.
"I like 'em," McDowell said. "They're nice, and Coach Dooley's a great coach."
For a guy to drive 514 miles, he must have a keen interest in the Big Orange program. McDowell concedes as much.
"I like Tennessee," he said. "I like Tennessee a lot."
Like most visiting prospects, McDowell was blown away by the size of Neyland Stadium and the high-tech atmosphere of the weight room and the indoor practice area.
"The facilities are nice," he said, shaking his head in awe. "I really like 'em."
McDowell is such a good athlete that he also plays for Covington High's basketball team. He believes the hardwood is going to make him better on the gridiron.
"The conditioning helps me in football," he said.
Although he has 31 months to go till Signing Day of 2014, McDowell already knows what he's looking for in a college program, noting:
"I'm looking for a place that can make me a great player."
Perhaps Tennessee will be that place, even if it is 514 miles from home.