Virginia's Dowling has priorities straight

His name has made its way onto preseason watch lists and NFL draft boards, but Virginia senior cornerback Ras-I Dowling said he isn’t paying attention to any of it.

His priorities are bigger than that.

The biggest award Dowling is after this fall? His diploma.

“The one thing I wanted to do, a goal growing up was to get my college degree,” he said. “My dream was always to make it to the NFL, but I wanted to get my goal first and then have an opportunity to go to the NFL. I’ll be the first person in my family to go to college and graduate from college. It’s a great accomplishment for me, for myself. That’s something I wanted to accomplish.”

Dowling, who chose to forgo the NFL draft to return for his senior season, said that when he finally does leave Virginia, he hopes his legacy is as a great person before it is a great player. Considering what he’s already accomplished, though, Dowling has a chance to do both.

Dowling was recently named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list, an award which is given to the nation’s best defensive player, and he was ranked No. 21 in Mel Kiper’s first Big Board. Dowling finished the season ranked No. 6 in the ACC in passes defended (11) and No. 11 in interceptions (three). He also averaged 3.4 tackles per game and had two tackles for loss.

Dowling enters his final season with eight career interceptions and 145 total tackles. He has 36 career passes defended. Aside from graduating, his biggest goal this season is winning.

“If I make enough plays, or we make enough plays as a unit, of course we’re going to win,” he said. “I look at last season, and I didn’t make enough plays. That’s one reason why we didn’t win. If we come together as a team, we’re going to win as a team.

“I feel like we can win all of our games. Every player should feel that way. Everybody puts their pants on the same way we put ours on. They hurt the same way, bleed the same way. There’s no way you should come in there and believe another man can out-beat you. You have to come out willing to fight and ready to win.”

Does the rest of the team share his attitude?

Said Dowling: “I hope so.”

It would serve Virginia well if it did.