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How Marshawn Lynch inspired Oregon commitment Dante Dowdell

·4 min read

Dante Dowdell was always destined to be a bruising, downhill runner. Lawrence Hopkins – Dowdell’s stepfather – showed him one set of highlights and he was hooked. Marshawn Lynch inspired the future Picayune running back to thrive on contact at 7 years old.

“He fell in love with football ever since he saw that video,” Hopkins said. “He wanted to be Marshawn Lynch. He had the Marshawn Lynch jersey and Skittles before every game. Now, even though he’s his own person, he still wants to do that one thing that Marshawn did, and that’s driving the golf cart once he gets to Oregon.

“I knew once he started at 7 years old that he was going to be something special. You can tell with certain kids. They just have that star in their eye, and I’ve seen the star."

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The four-star recruit has turned into a modern version of Lynch, bulldozing defenders last season as he led the Maroon Tide to the MHSAA Class 5A championship. Dowdell rushed for 2,555 yards and 28 touchdowns in 15 games.

Dowdell’s performance earned him the No. 4 selection in the 2022 Dandy Dozen and helped his recruitment take off in the winter. Dowdell received his first Division I offer from Florida State in February and held offers from Ole Miss, Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee among others before committing to Oregon in May.

Picayune coach Cody Stogner also knew he had a special player before Dowdell had taken a varsity snap.

“We’ve had a lot of great running backs come through Picayune, but there’s nobody with Dante’s size, caliber and strength,” Stogner said. “We’ve known since seventh grade that Dante was going to be special.

“He’s a competitor. He’s always going to try to one-up himself, one-up everybody else.”

The 6-foot-1½, 210-pound Dowdell is the No. 4 recruit in the state and No. 9 running back in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He’s the No. 215 recruit nationally.

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Dowdell is a part of a one-two punch for the Maroon Tide along with Chris Davis. The duo combined for 45 touchdowns last season with Dowdell providing the power and Davis serving as the change of pace. However, Dowdell has no interest in being a shifty tailback. He’s here to run people over.

“When I first started playing football, I saw (Lynch's) highlights and I said I want to play running back,” Dowdell said. “I’ve been running people over ever since. I just like contact, and I feel like if you don’t like contact that you are being kind of soft. Plus I’m a bigger person. I can’t be Barry Sanders. I have to be more like Adrian Peterson and Derrick Henry.

“When you hit someone enough times, they don’t want to tackle you anymore.”

Dowdell also aimed to be different in his recruitment. He considered Ole Miss, Tennessee and Oregon as his top three schools along with late interest from Alabama. However, the senior never felt pressured to stay in state or play in the SEC. Dowdell wanted to blaze his own path.

Dowdell is one of nine five- or four-star recruits in Ducks coach Dan Lanning's 2023 recruiting class, each of them coming from out of state.

“Everybody talks about Bama,” Dowdell said. “You know this and that or Ole Miss and staying close to home. I want to be different. When I saw Oregon, I was sold.

“Coach (Carlos) Locklyn (Oregon running backs coach) called me the other day and he said that all of this started with you. You were the one to show people that they don’t have to be afraid to move far away from home.”

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: How Oregon commitment Dante Dowdell was inspired by Marshawn Lynch