Sept. 16, 2017

by Allegra Zamore

For senior wide receiver, Doni Dowling, life is all about surrounding himself with good people and using humor to keep a positive attitude when times get tough. The Richmond native has spent the last four years at Virginia creating relationships and setting an example for younger teammates through his actions and contagious sense of humor.

“I like to joke around a lot,” Dowling said. “I don’t stay mad for long because I don’t like to bring negative energy around or take it out on other people, so I try to stay as positive as possible.”

Dowling stresses the importance of having fun and surrounding himself with a strong group of friends that can act as a support system off the field in order to create a unified dynamic on the field.

“A few of the guys on the team and I are really into playing video games,” Dowling said. “I just bought new headphones so that I can be completely tuned in to the game and listen to my friends on the team, even if we aren’t in the same room.”

Dowling and his teammates play anything from Call of Duty to random Marvel 3D video games, and he attributes the good chemistry he has with his teammates to their new-found connection through gaming.

“I have gotten much closer with a lot of the guys that are all on the same side of the ball with me,” Dowling said. “We are always working together, on and off the field, and spending that extra time together is important.”

Not only is Dowling’s relationship with his teammates important, but also his relationship with his four-legged friend, Sage, his one-and-a-half year old German shepherd.

“I have had her since she was six-weeks-old and I love getting to run around with her in the dog park near my house,” Dowling said. “It’s important for me to find time to let her have fun and take care of her. It adds a greater sense of responsibility.”

This responsibility has helped prepare Dowling for the role that he plays on the team this year. Although he is not a captain, he considers himself a leader to the guys on the team and knows the influence he, and his humor, can have on the dynamic of the team.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what level you’re on, I will joke with you and have fun with you,” Dowling said. “I like to make other people feel comfortable and I like to make sure people feel like we are on the same level. When we are on the field we have different experience levels, but we are all the same when it comes to being people.”

This desire to create an equal playing field for everyone he encounters remains consistent when he is around his teammates and even young children.

“I love kids. Their imaginations are so incredible and being around them helps because I feel like I am a child at heart,” Dowling said. “I get along really well with kids, probably better than adults. I just have more patience with them.”

His patience and love for positive influence has Dowling considering a career in coaching after his football career is over.

“I am pretty good at explaining things to other people, and I would love to have a job some day where I get to influence others,” Dowling said. “I am learning more about myself and developing my leadership capabilities in order to create a positive image for people.”

Dowling says that if he could tell young kids anything it would be to persevere through adversity.

“I have been through a lot, and I will continue to go through tough times,” Dowling said. “The thing I have learned is that it is all about how you respond. There are a lot of things you can’t control, but how you respond is completely up to you.”

For Dowling, it’s all about being happy and chasing his dreams. He is sure to remain true to himself and his family in order to create the best possible outcome for his future.

“Family is extremely important to me and it’s something I look forward to for myself in the future,” Dowling said. “Ten years down the road I really hope I’m a dad and that I am spending time with my family and just having fun.”

Dowling has been a consistent source of laughter and support both on and off the field while at Virginia. For him, it is engrained into his every day life and his infectious positivity follows him with every relationship he makes.

“The only thing I know how to be is myself, I joke around and I am funny, so I try not to take things too seriously,” Dowling said.

Attitude and positivity have gotten Dowling to where he is today, and will carry him in the direction that he chooses when his time at UVA is over. Until then, it’s football and video games for everyone, creating countless opportunities for jokes and relationships on and off the field.