By Larry Jacobson, JTV Sports
It finally hit Drew Dowding this summer.
On the third day of a three-day camp in Hillsdale, he realized this would be his final football season for the Michigan Center Cardinals.
“It really hit me on that final day,” Dowding said. “This is my last year and my last season. It made me pretty sad because I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve had a great high school career and I’m definitely sad to see it end.”
Most of the time you don’t realize how much fun something is until it’s over or it’s gone. Drew Dowding is one of the fortunate ones, because he realizes it right now and he plans on enjoying every last moment.
“I’m going to soak up every last minute of this year and keep it going as long as we can,” he said. “We have a lot of younger guys, so it’s very important that guys step up and be leaders. As a senior, I have to show the younger players how to play at this level and how to win in the Cascades Conference. If the young players are quick learners, we can have a really good season.”
And what would that equate too?
“Our goal is to be in the hunt for the conference championship and get back to the state playoffs,” Dowding said. “I think we have the talent to do that. Not only to get there, but win games when we do.”
Standing in their way, of course, both in their quest for a conference title and usually in the playoffs, are the big, bad Warriors of Grass Lake High School.
“I’d love to meet them again in the playoffs – this time with a different result,” Dowding said. During his time at Michigan Center, the Cardinals have lost twice to Grass Lake in the playoffs. “I have so much respect for Coach Cole at Grass Lake and his entire program. The fans and the atmosphere are just amazing and the rivalry we have with them is a lot of fun to be a part of.”
Dowding, who is considering several options for continuing his football career at the collegiate level (possibly as a linebacker or pass-catching tight end) reflected on his first high school game for the Cardinals.
“One of the greatest memories I’ll take with me was playing in my first varsity game as a freshman,” he said. “I was so nervous and excited. I just wanted to be accepted by the older players and they were incredible with me. My brother, Derek, was a senior and I got to play with him. And playing alongside Mark Ward and some of the other guys and how they brought me along. They were amazing and I like to be that way with our young guys.”
The memories, of course, are also tied into the people that helped turn Drew Dowding into the player – and the person – that he is today.
“I would be lost without my mom,” he said. “No matter what’s happened in my life, she’s been there to help me get through it.”
And he continued.
“What my dad did as a player at Michigan Center was amazing and it was really special being able to follow that path a little bit,” he said. “I feel like I took up the torch during my time here and it’s not over yet. Coach Allen and the rest of the staff have been there for me every step of the way – and I can’t thank them enough.”
The 2013 football season kicks off the last Thursday of August, and it’s the beginning of the final season for one of the premier players in the Jackson area. But after spending a few moments speaking with Drew Dowding – and receiving a follow-up text message from him a little later double checking to make sure he mentioned the importance of his mom in his life – I realized while this chapter of his life will be closing, another one will soon open.
The young man appreciates and values what he’s done in his life, and eagerly embraces his future.