Highly-touted defensive prospect from Michigan State University Malik McDowell was the Seahawks’ first pick in the 2017 NFL draft, but he may never see the field due to an ATV accident prior to the start of his rookie season. According to various NFL insiders, Seattle plans on releasing McDowell soon because the team cannot medically clear him.
According to NFL insider Ian Rapaport, the hope is that another team will medically clear him but many privately believe that McDowell will never receive clearance to play again due to the injuries sustained.
It would be incredibly unfortunate if that holds true. We often hear about young athletes getting their money and getting in trouble with drugs, or guns, or women, or other dastardly deeds.
But this isn’t an issue of stupidity like when Plaxico Burress, also a former Spartan and NFL star, famously shot himself in his leg with his own gun like Cheddar Bob in 8 Mile. This is a case of extremely bad luck while having fun and sympathy goes out to McDowell.
But it’s fair to question why McDowell would be driving an ATV, apparently so recklessly that he crashed causing himself immense bodily harm, putting at risk his multi-million dollar NFL contract just a short time before his first season. Maybe rake in a few M’s before endangering your body AKA your moneymaker and livelihood?
But actually, I have empathy for McDowell after I crashed an ATV while up north in Michigan last 4th of July (I’ve been waiting for a national story to give me an excuse to blog this and I’ve finally got it. Sorry Malik but thanks for helping me out a little).
Myself, my brothers, and their friends went up to our place in northern Michigan last 4th of July, like we do every year, to celebrate freedom in the greatest country on Earth. But this year was different than years past because resting in the garage were three ATVs that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on.
I had never ridden an ATV before and was nervously cautious riding on the screaming-metal death-trap at first. But I acquired the ‘need for speed’ quickly. Within the day I was flying around corners attempting to get some gnarly air going over the off-road hills and bumps. I liked to ride in the standing-up position and felt like I was flying when riding my little brother’s beautiful, powerful, expensive Honda ATV that could get up to 70+ mph.
After a few days of riding I was SUPREMELY overconfident with my ATV abilities. At one point people were stopping me and asking if I was trained by Travis Pastrana (the answer is no for clarification).
On the night of July 3, 2017 the overconfidence caught up and bit me in the ass. And hands, and elbows, and chest, and knees. It was around sunset my eyes caught a glance of the beast of an ATV when a deep urge emerged which I could not fend off. And being 4th of July week there were a few Budweiser’s in my system (although still well below the .08 legal limit).
The slight buzz from the Budweiser gave me the little extra boost of confidence that I most definitely did NOT need. I hopped on that roaring Honda, started her up and FLEW up and down the long, rocky road that leads back to the cabin in the middle of the woods. I would speed down the road, slow down in time to turn around before driving in the street and possibly getting destroyed by a car going 70 mph, and speed back for home.
(And when I say ‘rocky road,’ I don’t mean like the tiny rocks on a baseball field or the dirt roads that country singers annoyingly can’t stop singing about. These were ROCKS. Not pebbles. Sharp, jagged, and ready to tear me apart with ditches and thick forestry to my left and right.)
So, after I had recklessly gone up and down the bumpy, rocky road going 50 mph I felt like I was done. It was getting dark and chilly and I was ready to relax by the fire cooking some burgers and s’mores. That’s when I had the bright idea of “just one more time and I’ll be good for the night.” I put my shirt on for the first time all day and started speeding down the road for a final glory ride.
But this time I got a little too carried away with my speed. Going 50 mph and nearing the end of the road where I need to turn around I thought, “oh, damn. I better start slowing down.” Although I continued for a split-second longer before pushing the breaks. At around 30 mph the time came to where I either needed to brake harder and veer left, or continue onto the real road with cars, possibly getting killed, or ram into a tree.
I decided to brake and veer left, at which point I thought I was still in the clear and not worried about crashing in the slightest. Still at around 30 mph and, turning left, and standing on the ATV like you would stand up on a bike to ride it, I started to feel a loss of traction. The skidding began and in entered panic mode. There was nothing I could do at that point but go with the flow of the crash. It was one of the most hopeless feelings I ever had because I now knew this would not end pretty.
At this point I was basically drifting completely sideways and the only thing I was thinking was, “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. AHHHHHHH!” When the ATV began to flip I instinctively jumped off and did a 30 mph head-first (no helmet) baseball slide on the treacherous rocks. My chest, knees, hands and elbows slammed into the terrain causing major bruising and some puncture wounds.
So, there I laid for a brief few seconds, just feet from the road and potential death, slightly bloodied, about a mile down the road from the cabin and any potential help, with mangled palms and a 500 lb. ATV turned upside-down as my only means of getting back.
After realizing this was indeed real life and I just f*cked up BIG-TIME, shockingly, I was able to get up almost immediately with no broken bones or horrendous trauma. I’m not a huge believer in luck, but not being horribly injured and being able to get up is one of the luckiest things to ever happen to me.
I looked at my bloodied hands. Glanced over at the overturned ATV. Then back at my hands. Then I laughed because that’s all I could do in that moment. It could have ended 100 times worse, but there I was standing with nothing but some bad bruises and deep scrapes.
My first attempt at flipping the ATV upright didn’t go so well. As in I barely even budged it. I took a step back to contemplate my options. Either muster the strength to flip over the ATV, hope it starts, and ride it back, OR walk a mile back to the cabin with my head down and tail tucked between my legs. In my head walking back wasn’t an option though so I muscled that ATV upright, it thankfully started, and I had to regrettably tell my brother that I crashed and hurt his expensive ATV (I actually tried to conceal it at first. The ATV wasn’t too cracked up but there was blood all over it and there was no concealing my injuries).
I had no helmet on, it SHOULD have ended worse. It was the first time I rode an ATV with a shirt on all week. If I didn’t put that shirt on before going out for my last ride of the night I could have ended up with a bloody belly and nipples scraped off on the rocks. I still have no idea why I put a shirt on but it saved my nipples and for that I am grateful. If I didn’t jump from the ATV before it overturned it 100% would have turned over with me underneath it which would have easily been a broken leg, probably much more, and I would have been stranded alone a mile away from my brothers and friends for God knows how long.
But the moral of the story: I don’t blame Malik McDowell for getting hurt on an ATV possibly costing his career. ATVs are just too much fun once you get going and build some confidence on them.
P.S. – I still went to the 4th of July parade and kayaked 13 miles the next day in honor of America. George Washington would never have let a little ATV accident stop his revolution and neither did I. Albeit I had to hold the kayak paddles like chopsticks, couldn’t get in or out of the kayak without major assistance, and therefore took so long to go down the Au Sable River I got a ban sunburn on top of my wounds. Not good!