"I based my choice on location -- Vanderbilt is close to home -- and the possibility of playing early," Dowell said. "I believe Vanderbilt is an up and coming program, and of course, they play in the SEC as well."
Signing with a big-name Division I-A program was important to Dowell, who will be in good company on National Signing Day, Feb. 2. Before it's all over, as many as nine of Dowell's teammates from Douglass could sign scholarship papers to play major college football at well-known outposts around the South.
"A lot of us defensive linemen will be playing at the next level," Dowell said. "Brandon Sesay and Roderick Battle, they're going to Georgia, so I'm going to have an opportunity to play against several of my former teammates. "James Alexander, an offensive lineman, has committed to Kentucky, so I'll get to play against him as well.
"James Davis is committed to Clemson. Greg Smith has committed to Georgia Tech, and I think Jason Hill is probably going to commit to Georgia Tech. Jeremy Chambliss, I think, is going to commit to East Carolina. We just had an outstanding team this year.
"But the chance to play SEC ball is the big thing for me -- the chance to play against my former teammates and beat them, and be able to brag about it."
Dowell played the guard and tackle positions on both offense and defense, but projects as a defensive end at Vandy. Douglass, coached by Gary Cantrell, finished 10-2 after losing to Valdosta in the second round of the 5-A playoffs. Dowell had seven sacks and over 80 tackles for the Astros in his senior season.
The Commodores were the first to extend him an offer, back in December. "They were trying to find one or two defensive ends, and they told me I'm one of the top guys on their list at that position," he said.
Dowell became the fourth commitment to result from a busy official-visit weekend on campus. Defensive back /running back Duran Coger (North Tuscumbia, Ala.), offensive lineman Ryan Custer (Troy, Ohio), and linebacker Chris Johnson (Birmingham, Ala.) all made commitments while on campus over the weekend. A fifth prospect, running back Jared Hawkins (Klein, Tex.), also gave the coaches his pledge a few days before arriving.
While in Nashville Dowell gave the Commodores a "soft" verbal commitment, leaving the door open slightly. But 24 hours later, after talking things over with his father, he was ready to forsake all his other suitors, including Ole Miss, East Carolina and MTSU.
"I liked Vanderbilt a lot, because a player that went to Douglass is a cornerback up there, Cheron Thompson. He was my host. He showed me around, and I had a good time."
Dowell's commitment helps make up for the loss of defensive lineman Wyatt Batchelor (Birmingham Vestavia Hills High School), who withdrew his commitment to Vanderbilt over the weekend and pledged to Army.
The commitment count for Vanderbilt now stands at 19, and could go as high as 24 by signing day.
Are you fully subscribed to VandyMania? If not, you're missing out on the latest insider recruiting updates we provide daily, as well as access to our members-only message boards. Click here today to take full advantage of the biggest and best in Commodore sports coverage!