Brevard Native Bubba McDowell Named Head Football Coach at Prairie View A&M University
By PVAMU Sports Information // January 4, 2022
McDowell was inducted into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame in 2013
WATCH: Following stellar years at Merritt Island and Miami, Bubba McDowell played for the Houston Oilers and Carolina Panthers, ending his professional career with 17 interceptions. McDowell was inducted into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. This video was produced in 2013 as part of McDowell’s induction presentation.
PRAIRIE VIEW, TEXAS – Prairie View A&M University Athletic Director Donald Reed has announced the appointment of Leonard “Bubba” McDowell as PVAMU’s new head football coach. The appointment follows McDowell’s brief stint in the interim head coach role after former head coach Eric Dooley’s departure in December.
McDowell will inherit a promising and experienced team that finished the 2021 season with a 7-5 record overall and a 6-2 conference record, leading to a western division title within the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).
Long regarded as a vital component of the team’s success, he has been credited with helping to build the current program alongside Dooley. He served as the assistant head coach for the past eight seasons while also leading the development of the defensive unit over the past three seasons. He also spearheaded recruitment efforts and advanced the team’s range of skills after joining the staff in 2011.
McDowell began his coaching career through a series of appointments at Houston-area collegiate programs after engaging in extensive development through the National Football League’s minority coaching program.
McDowell had a successful career as a starting safety in the NFL with the Houston Oilers and the Carolina Panthers. He retired in 1996.
“I’m proud to have Coach McDowell as our new head of the football program,” said PVAMU Athletic Director Donald Reed.
“I chose Coach McDowell because of his vast and successful experiences in collegiate and professional football. His leadership style and student-athlete-centered approach align with our goals to see our athletes excel in the classroom, on the field, and in the community. I’m impressed by Coach McDowell’s commitment to PV, and I know he’ll lead us to accomplish great things.”
McDowell Inducted into Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame in 2013
MERRITT ISLAND MUSTANG: Bubba McDowell never dreamed growing up on Merritt Island that he would be part of a football game that is widely regarded as the greatest comeback in NFL history or someday enshrined in the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
He learned to block punts and kicks while playing high school football for legendary Merritt Island coach Gerald Odom, and it was that special skill that would serve him throughout his career in both college and as a professional player.
Many colleges wanted to award McDowell a scholarship following his graduation, but he held one offer in high regard. That came from the University of Miami Hurricanes. He couldn’t pass up the chance to play for a national championship contender and its coach, Jimmy Johnson.
NATIONAL CHAMPION: Playing in the Hurricanes final game of the regular season in 1985 at the Orange Bowl against Notre Dame, McDowell blocked his first collegiate kick as a freshman.
Miami defeated the Fighting Irish 58-7 that day and went on to meet Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl. McDowell’s blocked kick against Notre Dame was the first of nine blocks he racked up in four seasons as a Hurricane.
His first start at cornerback came as a junior in 1987 against Maryland and held special meaning for him. McDowell had learned that one of his former Merritt Island friends and teammates, Steve Hamilton, had died of cancer days before.
He dedicated that game to Hamilton and went out and played an inspired game. His ferocious pressure on the Maryland punter led to 17 first-half point for Miami and the Hurricanes went on to win 46-16. Later that season the Hurricanes captured the national championship by knocking off Oklahoma 20-14 in the Orange Bowl.
COURAGE AWARD: In the spring of 1989, Bubba was drafted by the Houston Oilers and earned a starting job through his steady play during training camp. By the end of the season, McDowell had recorded four interceptions and drew rave reviews for his leadership and tenacity. For his play that year, he was honored with NFL First Team All-Rookie status from Pro Football Weekly and Football News publications.
In 1991, he won the “Ed Block Memorial Courage Award” for the Oilers, signifying “a player’s courage in the pursuit of professional excellence.” After the season, both the Associated Press and Pro Football Newsweekly named Bubba as a Second-Team All-Pro selection.
As one of only four NFL defensive players to start all 16 games of the 1992 season, McDowell finished first for Houston defensive backs with 91 tackles, was tied for first in fumble recoveries with three and tied for second in team interceptions with four.
Then in January 1993, McDowell played for the Oilers in a playoff game against the Buffalo Bills that many NFL historians rate as one of the most remarkable turnarounds of all time.
Early in the third quarter, McDowell intercepted a Frank Reich pass and ran it back 58 yards for a Houston touchdown. His score gave the Oilers a whopping 35-3 lead at the time. But under Reich, the Bills staged an unbelievable comeback and defeated Houston 41-38 in overtime. It was the largest deficit any team has ever overcome to win a game in the history of the NFL playoffs.
Following six years with the Oilers, Bubba played in 1995 for the Carolina Panthers in their inaugural season. He ended his professional career with 17 interceptions and one touchdown, which came on a fumble recovery in 1991 against the Denver Broncos.