Ex-Clemson stars McDowell, Shuey grinding away for long shots at NFL dreams

  • Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2014 8:12 p.m., Updated: Sunday, February 16, 2014 11:16 p.m.
Clemson's Roderick McDowell (25) tries to avoid the tackle of Hakim Jones (20) during last season's game against N.C. State. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Roderick McDowell's his same old upbeat self, whether he's a past or present Clemson running back.

The ebullient optimist, McDowell doesn't much care if or when he's going to hear his name called during the 2014 NFL draft. All that matters is the here and now, which two nights ago was the College Football All-Star Bowl at Furman University along with former Clemson linebackers Spencer Shuey and Quandon Christian and long snapper Philip Fajgenbaum.

Yeah, McDowell misses Clemson. He was there five years as a tailback.

"It's like a second home to me," McDowell said. "But I know for a fact, when I left there, I learned some important (lessons) about not just football, but life after football and being a man. So I miss Clemson, but they prepared me for life after Clemson, and that's why I'm ready for it."

McDowell and Shuey, both third-team all-ACC selections by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, figure as outside shots to be drafted, perhaps latching on as a free agent or practice-squad player down the road. They were productive seniors - McDowell recorded a 1,000-yard season on the ground, and Shuey's 119 tackles were second on the squad - but they won't join five ex-teammates at the NFL Scouting Combine this coming weekend.

"Getting an invite to the Combine, not getting an invite - at the end of the day, scouts gotta come to your school and you've got to put it on no matter what," McDowell said. "It's all about getting your opportunity, and March 6, when the scouts come to Clemson, we're gonna put on a show for them, do what we do."

McDowell's referring to Pro Day at Clemson, two Thursdays from now.

"(My goals are) just to perform the best I can at Pro Day. Then whatever happens, happens," Shuey said. "I'm not the one drawing up the draft board and choosing where I go, so I will be happy wherever I go, even if I'm a free agent, and I'll work to be the best I can."

McDowell is working out in Duluth, Ga., with well-regarded trainer Chip Smith, alongside other departing Tigers in Christian and offensive linemen Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley. Current walk-on wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez also is keeping them company.

"Right now I'm working hard, getting bigger, faster, more explosive," McDowell said, "so when my Pro Day comes, March 6, hey, I'll showcase my talent."

Shuey's operating out of a smaller facility, US Performance Center, in his hometown of Charlotte.

"I've gotten to know the guy pretty well, so it's been going good," Shuey said. "Definitely working on overall athleticism and quickness and speed. That's one of my weak points I need to work on."

A couple of former Clemson players, defensive end Malliciah Goodman and tight end Brandon Ford, were on the sideline at Furman, lending encouragement to their teammates of a few years ago.

"When I see them out here, talking to Malliciah and B-Ford on the sideline," Shuey said, "they're quick to open up and give advice, and I'm eager to listen and learn about the process."

Meanwhile, McDowell's been motivated by the return of his brother from a government job in Kuwait a few months ago.

"My brother is back," McDowell said. "When he got back, we sat down, had a big cookout, laughed, talked, had fun."

It hasn't entered McDowell's mind, the doubt of an uncertain future.

"It doesn't matter what happens; I'm going to get an opportunity, regardless," McDowell said. "My mindset, my skillset, I'll be ready when my opportunity comes."

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