The storied basketball tradition at Mount Vernon High School is well established. One visit to the gym, one peek at the surrounding walls and that much is clear. But Lance McDowdell hopes his story proves a student-athlete there can succeed in football, too.
The 6-foot-5, 305-pound defensive lineman gave his oral commitment to Central Florida this week after weighing interest from several college football superpowers, including the likes of Alabama, Miami, Tennessee, Nebraska and USC.
“This means the world to me,” said McDowdell, a two-time junior college all-American in two seasons at Nassau Community College. “At the end of the day, I want Mount Vernon kids to know that there’s not only a future in basketball; there can be a future in football, too. You can do it if you put your mind to it. If I can do it, anybody else can do it.”
Ironically, basketball gained McDowdell unwanted notoriety in the winter of 2012 when Section 1 stripped Biondi of its second straight Class D basketball championship. The section ruled that McDowdell, the MVP, was ineligible to play sports at both Mount Vernon (his home district) and Biondi (the school he attended) although he played for both teams the year prior, too.
It overshadowed an outstanding finish to his high school football career that saw the big-but-agile McDowdell named all-section and earn Super 11 honors from The Journal News prior to his senior season.
The two seasons at Nassau established McDowdell as a three-star recruit coveted by some of the best programs in the nation. He chose Central Florida based, among other things, on respect he has for head coach George O’Leary, whose extensive experience in college and the NFL included a stint as the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings.
“I’m very big on football and I do my research and I’m a very big fan of coach O’Leary,” McDowdell said. “It’s an up-and-coming program. I think I can be a big help for them. Maybe one day I can play in the NFL.”
First, McDowdell will sign his National Letter of Intent at noon Feb. 5 in a ceremony at Mount Vernon High School.