Dowell transferred from Mesa (Ariz.) Junior College, where he gained over 1,000 yards rushing in 1975. Dowell started to play for WVU in 1976 and played in all 11 games. He had 121 yards rushing that year and returned 10 kickoffs for 145 yards. In 1977, Dowell was listed as the No. 2 tailback behind Dave Riley. He played football at Albemarle High School. Dowell majored in social work.