David Bowen doesn’t mind the label "project," even though it kind of connotes a few things that aren’t very appealing—like it will take time for a "project" to physically mature before they can start at a major college level; and like a "project" can sometimes be a great unknown from nowhere.
The mammoth 6-foot-7, 270-pound Radnor (Radnor, Pa.) offensive tackle accepts these facts, because, well, he is a project. He was an unknown, considering Bowen wasn’t even going to pursue football after his freshman year. He did come from nowhere, after starting just four games for the Red Raiders last season as a junior.
But that didn’t stop Bowen from continuing to improve. And it didn’t stop Boston College, Temple, Towson State, and a number of Division I-AA schools from showing interest in him.
Boston College offered a scholarship and Bowen gave Eagles’ assistant coach Ryan Day a verbal commitment on July 2 to attend the Atlantic Coast Conference school next fall.
It’s funny how things can sometimes go. Three years ago, Bowen was thinking about anything but football. A missed opportunity with the golf team is the only reason he ended up on the gridiron.
"I missed the tryouts for the golf team visiting family in Michigan," said Bowen, laughing. "I come from a golf family. I have a cousin who plays for Stanford and my first love was golf. I had a tough time on the freshman team. I was getting yelled at by my offensive line coach all of the time, and I really did think I was being picked on.
"My intention was to play out my freshman year and work on my golf game. I wasn’t thinking of playing football beyond ninth grade let alone playing one day in college."
But someone saw something in Bowen—and that someone was Radnor offensive line coach Mick Bonner. He’d ride Bowen left and right, screaming at him, imploring him to put more effort into practice.
"I used to wonder why Coach Bonner was mad at me all of the time, like I was the target every day at practice," Bowen said. "It wasn’t making my experience any fun."
But that all changed one day. Bowen got his answer. Bonner grabbed Bowen after practice and pulled him aside. He told him bluntly and succinctly, he had expectations and a vision of Bowen’s ability that Bowen didn’t even see himself. Not then at least.
"Coach Bonner told me I could be a great football player one day, that I had the potential to be a Division-I football player and really do something," Bowen said. "I think that changed everything. I went from someone who was going to stick it out freshman year and get rid of football, to looking at it completely different. I actually credit coach Bonner for everything."
Then Bowen paused and laughed some more, "You know my parents, well, they weren’t that crazy about Coach Bonner at first, either. Now they love him. I didn’t see this coming—not even last year. But I kept working and working, and here I am. I’m going to BC, a major Division-I school.”
Bowen gained mounting attention with superlative camps this summer at Boston College, Penn State, Villanova and Temple. He has a great frame to pack on 50 to 60 pounds, and exceptional feet for someone his size. Bowen's final choices came down to BC and Temple.
As for the project label, Bowen has seen it tossed around on the internet in describing him. He shrugs his massive shoulders and knows how much work he’s going to have to put in to be one day start for the Eagles. That path has started already, with Bowen doing 100-yard sprints in early July in 100-degree heat.
"I’m here to prove I can play at Boston College, and my goal is to be the best offensive tackle in the Central League [where state powerhouse Ridley plays]," Bowen said. "It's written down on a piece of paper in my wallet. I know I’m going to be a target, 'the BC kid.' That’s why I need to dominate every play and pancake kids.
"I read the blogs about me. They all said the same thing. No one knew who I was and I wouldn't see the field until my redshirt senior year. That may be true, but it’s all motivation. I’m happy my college choice is taken care of. Now I have to prove to myself and prove to everyone that I'm a Division-I player, not just a big waste of size."
Maybe Bowen can jot down the word “project” in his wallet, too—working to have it one day mean "projected" starter.
Joseph Santoliquito covers high schools for the Philadelphia Daily News and is a contributor to MaxPreps.com. He can be contacted at JSantoliquito@yahoo.com.