Cortland, NY– Two summers ago Marcus Dowtin was entering his junior season as a linebacker for the University of Georgia when he first watched Jets head coach Rex Ryan star in HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” It was at that moment Dowtin knew he wanted to play for a coach like Ryan, in fact he prayed he would play specifically for Rex Ryan.

“Well, a year ago I prayed that I would play for a coach like him [ Ryan].” Dowtin told “Actually watching the ‘Hard Knocks’ I prayed that one day I’d play for him.”

For now his prayers have been answered and he plans to take full advantage of the opportunity bestowed upon him, “It’s going good.” Dowtin said when asked about the first few days of camp, “I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity so I’m just out here having fun, trying to do the best I can.”

After his junior season in 2010 Dowtin’s plan faced a detour that threatened to derail his dream of getting to the NFL, let alone getting lucky enough to handpick his coach.

In May 2010 Dowtin was charged with second-degree assault for knocking a man unconscious during a bar fight and according to the Palm Beach Post, “The case was resolved to the victim’s satisfaction and is expected to be expunged from Dowtin’s record.” Dowtin however, failed to mention a word about the case to anyone at Georgia and even with the case already being resolved out of court Dowtin lost his scholarship, in January 2011 after the University found out about the charge, and had to transfer to North Alabama for his senior year.

Dowtin showed promise during his three years at Georgia, but he was able to excel with more playing time and pad his stats at the lower level of competition. In Dowtin’s last season at Georgia he finished with 57 tackles [4.5 for a loss], one-and-a-half sacks and one pick. In his senior season at North Alabama Dowtin finished with 115 tackles [nine for loss] and four sacks, with one interception.

The, 6’2″ 230 pound, rookie was considered to be a late round possibility in this year’s draft, but he ultimately went undrafted. You’ll often hear how it can be better for a player to go undrafted than to be a late round pick because the undrafted player can pick which situation is best for them. In this case Dowtin was just thrilled that the man he prayed would one day be his coach, actually wanted to coach him.

Since the Jets appeared on ‘Hard Knocks’ we have heard about players around the league possibly being drawn to Ryan’s charming and fun-loving persona. Ryan defines the phrase, player’s coach, and of course some critics think he’s often too much of a friend to his players, but Dowtin is obviously not one of those critics and neither is ex-Jet receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

Johnson visited camp on Friday and called Ryan the, “coolest looking head coach in the National Football League.” Johnson continued, “I mean really, seriously. He’s lost weight, he looks healthy, looks good. Cool shoes on, tat on the calf, I love all that. He’s real cool.” Johnson said it was the first time he’s had a chance to talk to Ryan and said, “I love him man, I like him a lot.”

It’s easy to see why player’s like Johnson, Dowtin and so many others are drawn to Ryan and his larger than life persona, but Dowtin knows it’s not enough to simply get coached by Ryan in training camp. He has every intention of carving out a role for himself in a way that can help this Jets defense during the season and he believes he knows exactly what that role will be.

Ask Ryan and he will tell you that linebacker is the deepest position on the team and at first glance that may make it seem like Dowtin is a long shot to make the team, but what the current group of linebackers lack [coverage ability], is exactly the area Dowtin excels in and he hopes to use that to his advantage as he tries to stick with the coach he once prayed he could play for.

In a Pro Football Weekly scouting report on Dowtin they list the positives as, “Has a lean, cut-up physique. Highly athletic — quiet, safety-like movement skills. Good balance and body control. Quick-handed, quick-footed and agile to slip blocks. Flows laterally and ranges sideline-to-sideline. Closes fast. Fills the hole with authority. Shows striking ability. Drops effortlessly into zone and can intercept. Was used as a pass rusher and can get home as a blitzer. Productive. MVP of Battle of Florida all-star game.”

In the same scouting report his negatives are listed as, “Small-framed and lacks ideal bulk. Can be covered up by larger blockers. Overruns some plays. Occasionally tackles high — will lasso or grab more than he should instead of driving through ballcarriers. Was athletically superior as a Division II player. Character needs to be looked into.”

The Jets already have plenty linebackers built to defend the run, what they need is a linebacker with coverage skills and of course they could use some more pass-rushing ability, but where Dowtin could potentially help out the most is in coverage underneath and taking away some of those options from the high-powered passing attacks the Jets will face this season like the Patriots.

“I’m playing pretty much both linebacker spots. I’m moving to the dime, which is you know is kind of like a cover [assignment].” Dowtin said, “I get in a little bit of that X, which does some covering too. So my job is basically to fit in where I can and do the best I can with the opportunity that I get.”

As for grasping the system Dowtin said, “I pretty much know everything [in the playbook]. You can always learn something everyday so it’s kind of like as the days go on, it’s a new day everyday so you got to pick it up as you go.”

Everyday Dowtin gets more and more comfortable and while he may still only be considered a sleeper to make the roster his skill set gives him a real shot. If he can take advantage of this opportunity, he might just find himself a spot on the team or at least the practice squad.

It’s one thing for a player to pray to play for Ryan, but the reason they give you for why they think so highly of Ryan will tell you all you need to know about the player’s mentality and Dowtin’s reason is sure to excite his coach as well as Jets fans.

“I feel like he [Ryan] can match my intensity.” Dowtin said, “Any coach who allows me to go and not hold me back, I can’t do nothing but love it.”

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