In the end, Malik McDowell made his own decision.
The five-star-rated defensive end from Southfield chose to play at Michigan State.
McDowell announced his decision on National Signing Day in the high school gym in front of hundreds of students who screamed their approval from the bleachers.
His father, Greg McDowell, stood behind him as he made his announcement to become a Spartan, ending speculation he might go to Ohio State, Florida State or Michigan. As of Wednesday night, however, McDowell had not sent in his letter of intent, though he is expected to soon.
It was no secret that McDowell’s parents wanted him to venture out of state and that his mother, Joya Crowe, had issues with one of the assistant coaches at MSU.
But Malik rose from his seat at Southfield High School on Wednesday morning and made it clear he was headed for East Lansing — and that MSU football coach Mark Dantonio was a big factor in his decision.
“I feel it’s an elephant off my shoulders,” said the 6-foot-6, 292-pound McDowell. “It’s a great relief. It’s been stressful … real stressful. But I felt like they (MSU coaches) could get the best out of me. I really decided a couple weeks ago.”
McDowell’s parents said they felt it would be best for their son to attend college away from the state Michigan so as he could concentrate on his football and studies and not get caught up in campus social activities.
Malik admitted he listened closely to his mother and father.
“I took a lot of input from my family,” he said. “I listened to what they said. But I still had to make my own decision.”
Almost as soon as McDowell made his announcement, MSU coaches were on the phone with him.
“They’ve already called my phone,” a smiling McDowell said. “So I’m pretty sure they are excited. I’ve talked to them just about every day.”
And Dantonio — what does McDowell think of his soon-to-be coach?
“I love him,” said McDowell. “He’s a great coach.”
Greg McDowell said of Malik’s decision to become a Spartan: “My son made his decision and I’m here to support my son, because that’s what I do as a father. I love him like that.”
And McDowell’s mother — what reaction would she have?
“I can’t speak for his mother, she isn’t here,” Greg McDowell said. “I can only speak for myself. I feel good about his decision … my son made his decision and I’m proud of it.”
Malik said he’d had a “last-minute” chat with his parents before deciding on Michigan State.
“We talked on Tuesday night,” he said. “Mom was a bit iffy; my dad said he was backing me.”
Southfield football coach Tim Conley said he wasn’t surprised McDowell chose MSU.
“We knew that’s where he wanted to go … we’ve known that for some time,” Conley said. “He just had to figure it out at home. All the choices he had were great. I’m impressed with the way he handled himself.”
McDowell said playing for Dantonio will suit his approach to football.
“He’s the type of coach who is a more serious coach,” McDowell said. “Like the coaches here at Southfield High I’m used to being around.”
So, why did he finally choose MSU?
“The school environment, the academics and the coaches,” McDowell said.