It looks like Malik McDowell never will play a down for the NFL team that drafted him.
It's the latest twist in a sometimes bizarre path McDowell’s career has taken from the time he was a standout five-star prospect at Southfield High to his days at Michigan State and leading up to reports of his expected release from the Seattle Seahawks.
Reports surfaced on Monday — first from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network — the Seahawks were planning to release the 35th overall pick from the 2017 draft after he missed all of last season because of a head injury suffered in an ATV accident in July back in Michigan.
At last month’s NFL meetings in Orlando, coach Pete Carroll was asked about McDowell’s status.
“No, sorry,” Carroll told The Seattle Times. “I haven’t had a good response for you in a long time on that one, sorry.”
According to The Times, Seahawks general manager John Schneider said the team was “waiting on the scans” before it would know more about McDowell’s future.
It appears, scans or not, the Seahawks have determined that future won’t be in Seattle. The team won’t save any money off the four-year, $6.95 million deal it signed McDowell to, though it could try and recoup some of his $3.19 million signing bonus. It all points to the likelihood the Seahawks are simply ready to move on from the pick.
McDowell’s road to the NFL has been far from a smooth one. He made headlines the day he committed to Michigan State in February of 2014 when his mother, Joya Crowe, refused to sign her son’s national letter of intent. She then went on a local radio show to reiterate how she wanted McDowell to play at one of the other three schools he was considering — Michigan, Ohio State or Florida State.
“I do not want him to go to Michigan State, but I’m OK with the other three schools,’” Crowe said on 105.1 FM. “That’s exactly what I told him, that’s how I feel.”
Nearly two months later, Crowe relented and McDowell ended up at Michigan State.
At 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, McDowell was a freshman All-American in 2014 and followed that up in 2015 by earning second-team All-Big Ten honors while helping the Spartans reach the College Football Playoffs. He had 13 tackles for loss, including 4.5 sacks and was primed for a big season in 2016.
However, the breakout never came as Michigan State was mired in a miserable 3-9 season. There were whispers of the locker room chemistry breaking down, and McDowell appeared at times during the year to be lacking effort.
He still started eight games, including three at defensive end, while earning second-team All-American honors from CBSsports.com. But he missed the last three games of the season with an ankle injury and as the draft drew closer, the questions about his work ethic lingered.
At one time expected to be a high first-round pick, McDowell’s stock dropped until he was taken near the beginning of the second round. It was something the Seahawks understood, but they had their eye on McDowell for a long time and even worked a trade to move out of the first round, adding four picks while still landing in a position to take McDowell.
“We think he has great upside,” Carroll said after McDowell was drafted. “He had a fantastic sophomore season that we weighed heavily and we think we have a really special player and we’re really happy to get him. Had a good visit when he came in, all that, and it paid off.”
But by July, the goodwill was starting to wear thin following the ATV accident and it was further damaged when McDowell was arrested in December outside a night club in Atlanta because of a dispute over a $600 bill.
Video showed McDowell berating police officers during his arrest outside the SL Lounge in Chamblee, Ga. In the video obtained by TMZ Sports, McDowell can be heard calling the officers names using profanity, brags about his “lawyer” money, and at one point accusing officers of trying to “plant” evidence as they put him in handcuffs.
McDowell later apologized on Twitter.
“I am embarrassed by the situation and my actions Saturday,” McDowell wrote. “I would like to apologize to the Atlanta Police Department, SL Lounge, the entire Seattle Seahawks organization and my teammates. I am a young man who made a mistake and am constantly working towards getting better.”