East Lincoln's Marcus McDowell was too young to remember exactly how he got his nickname, "Bubba."
"My mom has called me Bubba ever since I can remember," McDowell said. "Growing up, everyone really called me Bubba, so I guess it stuck with me. Marcus or Bubba, I don't really care what they call me, I like both of them."
No matter what you call him, his teammates and opponents have started to notice McDowell, who after a slow start has started to live up to the No. 1 jersey he wears.
McDowell is just beginning to make a name for himself.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
In his third varsity start, this season against East Gaston, McDowell broke out for 234 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, the second-highest rushing total in school history.
McDowell followed that up with 151 rushing yards and another two scores against Bandys. Both performances also led the Mustangs to victory.
Friday, McDowell led East Lincoln to another win, scoring three touchdowns to lead the Mustangs over SouthLake Christian 44-28.
"We have been very fortunate to have great running backs here in the last few years," said East Lincoln coach Mike Byus. "Every team, every offense needs that go-to guy. Right now, Bubba has become that guy for us."
McDowell waited patiently for his opportunity, after starring for the JV team for most of last season. On Friday nights, he watched former Mustang star Austin Culp and looked forward to the opportunity to follow the footsteps in a long line of standout East Lincoln's running back.
While McDowell lacks the size of many of his predecessors, at 5-foot-7, 160 pounds, he makes up for it with speed and toughness that few others possess.
"(Marcus) has great vision. He sees the whole field very well on every play, but he also has that burst, that extra gear that he can get through a hole or by a defender," said Byus.
A big part of McDowell's success can also be attributed to his quarterback, Patrick Rendleman, whose dual threat to run, throw or give the ball to McDowell makes opposing defenses constantly guess who the ball is going to, where they're going and how to stop them.
Rendleman and McDowell have complemented each other, as the junior quarterback also has seen some success on the ground.
McDowell said playing alongside Rendleman has been easy.
"Patrick and I have been playing together since the seventh grade," said McDowell. "We know how each other plays and we know how to work together. I think that makes it a lot easier for us to be successful."
While McDowell and company have made a lot of strides, the junior is not satisfied with what he has done. Instead, he's focused on what is to come in the future.
"We need to keep getting better every week because things aren't going to get any easier," said McDowell, describing the tough competition in the Southern Piedmont Conference and beyond. "I am excited about the challenge. I'm ready for conference, especially Lincolnton."
If "Bubba" is going to make himself a household name in Lincoln County and the SPC, the next five-game stretch, which includes Bessemer City, Lincolnton, Cherryville, West Lincoln and North Lincoln, will define him.
McDowell hopes his success will also translate to that of his team, as the Mustangs look to win 10 or more games for their fifth straight year.
"I felt like I needed to step my game up, and I did," said McDowell. "I feel like I can go out and do it every game. But, I have to go out and prove it on the field, every Friday night."