Drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Malik McDowell never played a regular-season snap before his career went off the rails.
An ATV accident and a string of off-field incidents led to his release from Seattle, an arrest and an NFL career that seemed gone.
McDowell is attempting to write one of the most improbable comeback stories in league history after signing in Cleveland this offseason. The 25-year-old made the Browns’ initial 53-man roster this week.
“Everybody don’t get a second chance,” McDowell said, via Marla Ridnour of the Akron Beacon-Journal. “That was just meaningful that the NFL and anybody is willing to give me, of all people, another chance. That’s just a blessing right there.”
After the ATV accident weeks prior to his rookie camp, McDowell had multiple run-ins with the law, including a DUI and disorderly conduct, and was charged with assault, resisting arrest, and operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Seattle released him in March of 2019, and the league suspended him for two games. Later in 2019, McDowell was sentenced to 11 months in jail after pleading guilty following his altercation with police.
“A lot of stuff drove me to what I had going on,” McDowell said. “The accident was the biggest part. … That’s where I lost my faith, and I shouldn’t have ever lost my faith.
“Doctors telling me I’d never be able to play again, but I’ve got doctors saying another thing and go to a team and their doctor says the same thing, go to another team, doctor says the same thing. Just trying to push through that was a hard thing for me. I got down on myself a lot, just knowing I might not ever be able to play football again. But God blessed me and I’m back here.”
McDowell credited his mother, Joya Crowe, for helping him get through that dark period of his life.
“I disappointed myself a lot, but hurting her, she was the only one that stuck by my side and I put her through some unnecessary pain. That was the biggest letdown for me, just letting her down,” he said. “When I didn’t believe in myself, she was still there for me. Every day she told me, ‘You’re going to play football one day again,’ even though I didn’t believe her. … She saw past everything I was going through. She was my real driving force.”
McDowell’s stint in jail helped revitalize his hunger for football.
Making the Browns is step one in recapturing a career with such promise that the Seahawks used the No. 35 overall pick in 2017 on the Michigan State product. Step two will be earning a role on a Browns defense that has high expectations.
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