The Cleveland Browns signed defensive tackle Malik McDowell in May to the type of “low-risk, high-reward” contract that fans love but that rarely pays off in the end.
Following Tuesday’s initial roster cutdown, it looks like McDowell might turn out to be the exception.
McDowell showed enough potential at Michigan State to be a second-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. A series of off-the-field incidents, including crashing a Yamaha 4-wheeler that resulted in a head injury, being arrested four times, being suspended by the NFL, and being sued by the Seahawks for failing to repay his signing bonus, means that McDowell is still waiting to play in his first regular-season game four years after being drafted.
That should change on September 12 when the Browns open the season against the Kansas City Chiefs as McDowell earned a roster spot after a solid training camp and preseason.
It took hitting rock bottom for McDowell to realize what he was on the verge of losing, he said on Tuesday (quotes via team-provided transcript):
“While I was in jail, it gave me a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do in life and where my life was heading. That really gave me the motivation and push to try to fight back to get back what I lost. I was telling everybody I was in there with that is what I am working toward. ‘When I get out, I am going back to try to play football.’”
This past offseason the Browns were the lone team to invest the time in McDowell after all of his troubles. McDowell said he is now looking to repay general manager Andrew Berry for giving him a chance (quotes via cleveland.com):
“I told them how much I wanted it and how much I wouldn’t let them down giving me this opportunity even though I had chance after chance. And this being my last chance and everything, you all giving me this opportunity, I won’t make you look bad. (Andrew Berry), in particular, giving me this opportunity, bringing me in here, sticking his neck out for me and everything. So definitely don’t want to let nobody down.”
McDowell has cleared the first major hurdle in his comeback by making the Browns roster. The next obstacle comes in the regular season when he will consistently go up against starters across the line from him.
Redemption stories do not always play out well in the NFL, but McDowell is off to a good start in rewriting his story.