When Urbana closed its doors recently, its student-athletes scattered to find new homes.

One of those athletes was offensive lineman Winford Dowdy Jr. Dowdy recently picked Hampton University and the Pirates.

Dowdy comes to Hampton from Akron, Ohio. He had been recruited by Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State coming out of school, but couldn’t play due to a low test score. That led Dowdy to nearby Division II school Urbana and the Blue Knights.

“They wanted me to get an 18 on my ACT test, so I could be eligible to attend, but that didn’t happen,” he said. “So I didn’t get offered by them, so by my senior year, my only option was DII or JUCO and I chose Urbana.”

Dowdy excelled at Urbana, only allowing one sack as a sophomore in 2019. But when Urbana closed, everything changed for Dowdy.

Road to Hampton

“We went on spring break,” Dowdy said. “Then a week later, we were told we have to move everything out of our dorms, because of the (corona)virus and all classes were converted to online.”

What happened next changed Dowdy’s football future, but he wasn’t alone. It changed the futures of all student-athletes at the school.

“Fast forward to the end of April and our head coach reached out to us and let us know the college would be closing for good,” Dowdy explained. “Nobody had an idea that it was going to happen. It was just very unexpected.”

But that day soon became a blessing for Dowdy. His recruitment was suddenly opened.

“That same day it closed, like a hundred coaches followed me on Twitter and were calling and texting me,” Dowdy said. “The last couple of weeks have been rough, because a lot of schools wanted me to join their program.”

By the time it was all said and done, Dowdy had offers from Austin Peay, Youngstown State, Eastern Kentucky, Morgan State, Murray State and Eastern Illinois. Last but not least was his new home, Hampton.

Ultimately, Dowdy felt Hampton was best not only for his football future but also for his academic future.

“I ended up committing to Hampton because I felt like that was the best option for me and my future,” Dowdy commented. “I feel like at Hampton, I would have a great chance to earn my master’s degree in sports management, develop as a player and also network with people in the sports industry.”

After Football

Dowdy plans to obtain his master’s from Hampton and give back to his hometown of Akron. He hopes to use not only his football talent, but his academic talent as well.

“My mission is to obtain my master’s in sports management and play professional ball,” Dowdy described. “I also want to help others along the way. I’m all about giving back to the youth and helping them understand it’s more out in life than just Akron, because a lot of kids never been out of the city.

“I had the luxury of exploring the world quite a bit,” Dowdy continued. “So I have a better clue to the opportunities that are available, but I use football as an avenue to get where I need, because I love it and it happens to be one of my strengths.”

Growing up in Akron isn’t easy according to Dowdy, but it made him the man he is today. The city also made him the player that he is.

“I would be lying if I told you it was like peaches and cream,” Dowdy explained. “It was rough and still is. You just have to stay focused and locked in on your mission, because it’s lots of distractions and things going on that can get you off track.”

One thing Dowdy is on track for is a very promising career at Hampton moving forward.