SI Vault
Douglas S. Looney
October 16, 1989
High-flying Air Force is winning big because quarterback Dee Dowis is staying on the ground
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October 16, 1989

On Top Of The World

High-flying Air Force is winning big because quarterback Dee Dowis is staying on the ground

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Given these kinds of stats—and the likelihood that the Falcons will finish no worse than 8-4 this season—the Air Force Academy may soon no longer be the only major service academy without a Heisman in its trophy case. Dowis started the season at about 200 to 1 for the Heisman; the odds have shortened considerably since then, and should the Falcons upset Notre Dame, he would have to be seen as the favorite.

So, Dee, how does the prospect of winning that coveted award strike you?

"Sir, that stuff just clutters your head and gets you focused on the wrong things. So I don't think about it. It's a team game, sir."

Naturally, with fame comes scrutiny, and observers have been critical of Dowis's passing ability. In fairness, the wishbone normally allows for only two receivers, which makes passing difficult even for a strong-armed quarterback. Weatherbie says of Dowis, "He's more of a thrower than a passer." Still, last season Dowis went 11 for 11 against Northwestern, tying the NCAA record for consecutive completions in a game. And last Saturday, while Navy was looking for him to run wild, he carried the ball only nine times and gained 73 yards but completed six of 12 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-7 Falcon win. It truly is hard to attribute a single weakness to Dowis—other than his size.

When Dowis is asked about his shortcomings, he is reduced again to shufflin': "Gee, a lot. I don't know where to start. Too many to mention." We'll wait. He looks desperate. "Well, sir, I daydream in class sometimes."

The turning point for Dowis's career came when he nearly left Air Force after his freshman season, in which he rushed 24 times for only 39 yards. He visited Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech. Tech was interested, sort of, in Dowis as a wide receiver. But to his credit, Tech coach Bobby Ross encouraged Dowis to hang in with the Falcons. It didn't hurt that Ross's son, Chris, is a 1984 Air Force graduate. True, had Dowis been 6'4" with a rifle arm, it's possible Ross would not have taken such a high road.

"But I wasn't listening to anyone at that time," says Dowis. He called Royston from Atlanta and told his mother. "I'm coming home and goin' to Tech." Said she, "That'll be fine."

Upon returning to Air Force to pack his bags, Dowis paused long enough to talk with DeBerry and McCombs, and he says. "I just couldn't quit something that I knew I could be successful at. And I knew I'd be perceived as a failure."

Dowis told DeBerry, "If I come back, I will be your quarterback." DeBerry made no promises. "I'll give you that chance," was all he said. Dowis took that opportunity and, well, ran with it.

What further burnishes this quarterback tale is that Dowis is one terrific college player. Pro football he doesn't even daydream about. What Dowis does is play the game for the joy of it. Typically this fall, he rises at 6:30 a.m., goes to classes, practices and then goes back to his sixth-floor room in Sijan Hall to tackle two books: Principles of Microeconomics and Engineering Thermodynamics. Early in the school year, Dowis got rid of a stereo and a television, because they interfered with his studying.

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