Leading up to Week 0 games on Aug. 28, HERO Sports is going to name the best returning FCS player by jersey number, 99-0. Due to rosters being updated at different times for teams across the country and to keep things consistent, jersey numbers are based on the 2020 fall-2021 spring season.
Dowling had a fabulous debut season for the Bears in 2020-21. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound linebacker was everywhere in Mercer’s three fall games. Dowling’s collegiate debut saw a 16-tackle performance with one tackle for loss and one sack against Jacksonville State. Two weeks later against FBS Army, he racked up another 16 tackles, two TFLs, and two sacks. In the last fall game against Abilene Christian, Dowling had nine tackles, one TFL, and one sack.
His play carried over to the spring season, where the last two games saw a combined 27 tackles.
In 10 total games, Dowling totaled 90 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two quarterback hurries, and three pass breakups.
He was named to the All-SoCon Second Team, a HERO Sports Freshman All-American, and finished fourth in voting for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the top FCS freshman.
Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.