The Wolfpacker

May 2014

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 85 of 95

86 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER O ne afternoon on the dusty backroads of Central Florida more than 90 years ago, Jack McDowall was at a gas station play- ing pool with friends. The spindly legged halfback had completed his high school football career and chose not to go back for any more classes. Out of the blue, someone from Rocking- ham, N.C., stopped to get gas. Whether he was a recruiter, a bird dog or just someone who knew about the skinny kid from New- berry, Fla., isn't exactly clear. But the guy offered McDowall room and board, plus $25 a week if he would move to North Carolina and play football one more year at Rockingham High School. McDowall, who came from an abusive home, didn't need convincing. He sneaked out of his bedroom window in the middle of the night and headed north for athletic glory. "They recruited in high school back then," McDowall explained in a newspaper feature. "I stayed in a boarding house in Rockingham, and the people there treated me fine." After helping Rockingham High win the 1923 state championship, McDowall went back to his home state hoping to play for Florida, but the Gator coaching staff thought he was too small. He was lured back to NC State College in 1924, and he went on to become the most successful student-athlete in the school's first three quarters of a century. His accomplishments are largely unknown by fans who get their news via videos and social media. Mostly all that remains of his achieve- ments — he twice won All-Southern Con- ference honors in football, basketball and baseball — are on the yellowed newspapers of a scrapbook that now belongs to his grandson. But now that he has been elected into the NC State Athletic Hall of Fame, his name will be etched into the granite of history — all because he was found in a pool hall while playing hooky from school. For years after he became a successful athlete, coach and administrator, every time he passed by a filling station and saw direc- tionless loiterers, he would say: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." There's never been an athlete at NC State quite like John Witherspoon McDowall. A multi-sport star, he was voted the top stu- dent-athlete performer in the school's first ■ PACK PAST Jack McDowall Was A Multi-Sport Standout In The 1920s In the spring of 1975, McDowall was inducted posthumously into the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame. He was honored in a ceremony at halftime of the NCSU-Florida game (won by NCSU, 8-7). Left to right are Rudolph Pate, vice chancellor for foundations and devel- opment; Dick Herbert, executive secretary of the American Football Coaches Association; McDowall's widow, Mrs. Sally McDowall; Fred "Tubby" Logan, captain of the 1926 football team; and the McDowalls' daughter, Sally F. Blake. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS "He was one of those 'Saturday Athletes.' He never exerted himself during the week in practice, but he did unbelievable things in a pinch. I have coached many fine athletes, but I never saw one who could touch him." ■ NC State College football/basketball coach Gus Tebell on McDowall 86,88.Pack Past.indd 86 4/29/14 4:21 PM

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