Rico Dowdle, USC Class of 2016 playmaker
A.C. Reynolds coach Shane Laws would watch his star player, Rico Dowdle, make plays that left him shaking his head in amazement seemingly every Friday night.
Even more often over the past year, Laws would shake his head, confused as to why scholarship offers were not flowing Dowdle’s way.
Laws has been at A. C. Reynolds High since 1997 and has witnessed numerous stellar athletes. In recent years the Rockets have had players go to play at Alabama, Notre Dame and on to the NFL. Still, Laws says Dowdle is the best high school player he has ever coached or coached against.
“It’s as frustrating as I’ve ever been with recruiting, and I get frustrated every year. There were a lot of conversations my wife and I would have about it at night,” Laws said. “We’ve been fortunate and we’ve had some good players here to go a lot of different places, but he’s the best. In my opinion he could play for anybody in the country, no doubt.”
Sure, Dowdle had offers from Boston College, Wake Forest and Vanderbilt, programs in the bottom half of their leagues, but after finishing the season with more than 4,000 yards of total offense and 63 touchdowns in 13 games, Laws could not understand why the majority of the schools in the SEC and ACC had not offered the playmaker.
Laws said he heard from numerous high school coaches in North Carolina who were just as surprised as he was.
“Several high school coaches said this might be the best player in the state, and in my opinion he was. It was sort of a running joke for a little while in our state,” Laws said. “The high school coaches are just sort of all laughing at all these college guys that aren’t doing anything with what may be the best player in the area. These guys are getting paid 50 times what we’re getting paid and they don’t know what they’re doing.”
As hard as it was to do, Laws and Dowdle remained patient and let the recruiting process play out. Finally, on Dec. 16, Dowdle was offered by the school he wanted to attend all along, South Carolina.
“I know it’s a great place to be down there at Willy B,” he said. “I know it’s a place for a great education to come out of there and get a good job. A bunch of great players played at the University, Marcus Lattimore, players like that, Jadeveon Clowney.”
Dowdle grew up in Gaffney and was a USC fan but moved to Asheville in eighth grade because his mom decided it was time for a change.
He was a little nervous at first about moving to a new state and trying to make new friends, but the A.C. Reynolds community welcomed him with open arms.
“I think it was probably the best change that I could’ve done in my life, just making that move from Gaffney to here,” he said. “Coach Laws has been there for me since my freshman year and the school. There are a bunch of things that I’ve been through with people up here in this community and area and they have been able to help me get through them and keep me up and keep me going.”
Laws said it was obvious early that the Rockets had something special in Dowdle.
“He was definitely ahead of the other guys in his class athletically,” Laws said. “He played some varsity football at the end of his freshman year as he progressed and learned what we were doing. I think the biggest thing for him was learning a complete new system. Everything was different. He was transitioning to a new school and a new area. But once he got comfortable we were able to see the things he was capable of. We knew then this kid’s not like a lot of them.”
Dowdle made the switch from running back to quarterback his senior year and led A.C. Reynolds to an 11-2 record, including a 6-0 conference mark. The Rockets averaged 49 points per game as Dowdle rushed for 2,545 yards and 51 touchdowns and passed for 1,434 yards and 11 scores. He also caught one pass, which went for a touchdown.
“He’s a very intelligent player, and he picks things up really fast. I was concerned, would we be able to squeeze all of that into his brain in five or six months, but he picked it up extremely well,” Laws said. “It just made us better. It opened things up in the passing game because people were trying to stop him from running around.”
Dowdle will play running back at South Carolina but could also line up in the slot and out wide. He showed off his versatility in the Shrine Bowl, rushing for 19 yards and a touchdown and catching five passes for 48 yards and a score.
After wonderingif he would ever earn an offer to play for the Gamecocks, Dowdle is working hard to prove that USC made the right decision.
“They told me to be ready that I can come in and play my freshman year,” he said. “My thing is I’ve just got to go. I’ve just got to keep working and be prepared to play at the next level in the SEC, the best football in college.”
Position: Running back
Ht./Wt.: 5-11, 208
High school: A.C. Reynolds (Asheville, N.C.)
Honors: Three-star prospect ... Picked for Shrine Bowl. ... Had 63 total TDs as a senior.