In barely a year, West Branch native Bo Bower has gone from being a preferred walk-on for the Iowa football team to now being on scholarship and competing for a starting position.
Bower, a redshirt freshman, is listed as a co-starter with junior Travis Perry at one of the three linebacker positions on the Iowa football team. Iowa released its depth chart Friday in preparation for next Saturday’s season opener against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa linebackers coach LeVar Woods also confirmed on Twitter Saturday morning that Bower had earned a scholarship.
“I’m super excited,” West Branch football coach Butch Pedersen said of Bower’s sudden climb up the depth chart. “He’s one of the hardest workers that I’ve ever had here and he’s very team oriented and he just works his fanny off.
“And everything he gets, he richly deserves because he puts a lot of time and effort into it from the weight room and on to the practice field. And also his leadership skills at West Branch were very, very good.”
Bower had a difficult time deciding between being a preferred walk-on at Iowa and accepting a full-ride scholarship to Northern Iowa. He initially committed to Northern Iowa before switching to the Hawkeyes.
“It was a tough decision for him because he thinks a lot of the UNI program,” Pedersen said. “It was a very difficult decision that we all had to work through with him. Obviously, he had to make that decision at the end on his own and I know that he has a lot of admiration for UNI.”
Bower was redshirted as a true freshman last season. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder started climbing up the depth chart during spring practice and has continued his ascent during preseason practice.
Bower made several impressive plays during last Saturday’s Kids Day scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium.
“He’s got a nose for the football,” Pedersen said. “He’s got really good speed. And he’s got what Hayden Fry used to call that extra heartbeat. He is not going to stay blocked and he just has a huge upbeat to him.”
It’s for those reasons that Pedersen isn’t surprised that Bower is pushing for a starting position. Iowa’s matchup against Northern Iowa also will be a showcase for Northern Iowa offensive lineman Jack Rummels, who is another West Branch graduate.
“I’m never surprised at any of my players when they go on to do things. Like Jack Rummels, he’s an all-American at UNI,” Pedersen said. “They work hard. I’m a little surprised maybe that it happened this quick. But I’m not surprised that he is going to be on the field some this fall. I anticipated this.”
Bower is trying to become the first West Branch native to start a game for the Hawkeyes since former all-America tight end Marv Cook, who played at Iowa from 1985-88.
Bower credits Pedersen for preparing him to be a Hawkeye. Bower played cornerback, outside linebacker and running back at West Branch.
“Coming from West Branch, coach (Butch) Pedersen, of course, knows what we do here from a condition standpoint and a playing standpoint,” Bower said. “I think it mentally prepared me more than anything, coming from West Branch.”
Pedersen praised Bower’s parents, Tammy and Chris, for having a positive influence on their son and for teaching him the value of hard work.
“He’s been raised right by his family,” Pedersen said. “His mom and dad are very-disciplined people who never let him sit around. They made him get a job. They made him work. He’s been raised the proper way.”
Reach Pat Harty at firstname.lastname@example.org or 339-7370.