"Every kid has that dream of playing football, really any sport you play, you want to be like whoever is the best," says hometown hero Colton Dowell, now truly living out his dream right around the corner from the community that calls him their own.
Growing up in Lebanon, Colton's father Chris was our beloved fire chief, and his mother Tracy spent 10 years working in the medical field before deciding to pursue her dream of becoming an educator. It's no surprise the Tennessee Titans wide receiver continued the family legacy of dedication, hard work and commitment to our Wilson County community.
Colton says when he was younger he wanted to be like Santonio Holmes when he played for the Steelers, but considered that a child’s dream. He explained that it wasn't until his third year in college that something flipped on for him to believe, “Man, I can really do this as a career," and his dad solidified his vision when he told him he saw it too.
We caught up with Colton to share how growing up in Lebanon influenced his career now that he's been drafted to the NFL.
What are your favorite things about growing up in Lebanon?
One, there are so many good food spots that I like. One of my favorites is Painturo’s – Pizza, an Italian place, they have pasta and everything you could want. Also, another pizza place, but I like David’s Pizza. If you ever find yourself in Lebanon, go to David’s, get you a sausage and pepperoni. Painturo’s has more variety. Their pizza’s good but their pasta is the way to go. Their breadsticks are crazy. If you just want pizza, I like David’s. I might get in trouble for that one.
More importantly, it’s such a close-knit community even though it’s not on the small side. I think there are around 50,000 people who live in Lebanon, but it seems like you know everybody. If you’re ever in trouble or you’re ever in a sticky situation, there’s somebody always around that you can holler at who will help you. It’s a very supportive community.
Tell us about your role models!
Definitely my dad, my brother, my mom are people I look up to. Outside of family, I’d definitely say one of my high school coaches, he coaches at Green Hill, Coach (Josh) Crouch. He helped me a lot as a player because he was that young coach on the staff, and Coach (Zac) White. He was that young coach on the staff that always had energy and you really felt like he understood what our athletes were going through. Seeing him have so much success this early in his coaching career pushes me to not be the one to fall behind. I’m a competitive guy, I like to chase after people, chase after goals. And I never want to let anyone be more successful than me, but not in a toxic sense. He just pushes me to become a better person and a better leader.
What passion projects are you working on that are close to your heart?
I’m trying to build up my influence and really dive into the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) whenever I have more time on my hands. I’m really passionate about helping kids and young adults not experience the same problems I went through spiritually.
What advice do you have for young athletes?
Dream however big you want to and set goals for yourself. A coach from when I was getting recruited to Chattanooga, Coach Bailey, told me whenever you set your goals, you set them high because nine times out of ten, you’re going to reach them. Going from there to UT Martin, I set a goal that I want to be remembered around here, I want to break records, I want to be in the record book, and I did it. I always had that thought in the back of my head: If you want to set your goals however high you want, however high they may be, you’re going to hit them if you work hard enough. Hard work is paramount in being an athlete.
What do you see in the future?
Being right here, still playing. By the grace of God, finishing out my career. Really diving into the Fellowship of Christian Athletes program. If I can’t work full time with FCA, I’d like to become a teacher and minister. I'll help coach football or do whatever I can to support young adults because they’re the ones who need it the most right now. This world is a crazy place. You never know how impressionable you are until you get older, and you realize where all your habits came from. Having mentors, support – that helps. In five to ten years, I’ll be thirty-something, I’d like to have my family started, have a house somewhere in Lebanon that I can call home base, and be stable enough to do what I’m passionate about without having to worry about money or availability.
Dream however big you want to and set goals for yourself.
You can’t cut corners because then you’ll just be running in circles.