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July 28, 2010
2:48 p.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — As a junior in 2009, UVa cornerback Ras-I Dowling was named to the all-ACC second team, so nobody will be shocked if he moves up to the first team this year.

But Dowling is more than a talented player, Virginia quarterback Marc Verica told reporters Sunday in Greensboro, N.C. He’s also a tremendous leader whose decision to remain in school, instead of entering the NFL draft early, was a huge boost for the Cavaliers and their first-year coach, Mike London.

Dowling is one of UVa’s team captains, along with Verica, tight end Joe Torchia and defensive tackles Nick Jenkins and John-Kevin Dolce. Dowling’s leadership style can be seen in recent episodes of “Virginia Football: The Building of a Program,” in footage of the players’ offseason workouts.

With media members who cover UVa football, Dowling often comes across as soft-spoken, almost shy. That’s not the Ras-I Dowling his teammates and coaches know, according to Verica.

“He wears his emotions on his sleeve, and he’ll let you know about it,” Verica said at the ACC Football Kickoff. “He’s a very vocal guy. It may not seem that way — he’s not regularly interacting with the media — but within our circle we know that he’s a very vocal, fiery, emotional guy. And that plays a big part in his leadership, because he believes and does everything with such conviction. You just can’t help respect it and buy into it.

“He has absolutely no reservations about getting in your face and telling you you’re doing a bad job or you’re doing a good job. And we believe that as leaders. We think that we should be able to get in your face and tell you the truth, and you should be able to not take offense to it. You gotta have thick skin. Then after that, we’ll still be brothers, we’ll still be family, but if you’re not pulling your weight, I’m going to let you know about it. We’re just not sugar-coating anything, and we’re not going to let anything fall by the wayside. We’re trying to not leave any stone unturned. Anything you see within your team that you don’t like, you gotta speak up and address it.”

Jeff White

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