Over the past two decades, I’ve interviewed countless high school athletes about their choice for college.
One that stands out isBower’s interview from late January 2013, but not because it occurred recently.
It stands out because I always will remember the sincerity in Bower’s voice as the West Branch native talked about the difficulty in choosing under unique circumstances between playing football for Iowa or Northern Iowa.
Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley had made Bower a recruiting priority by offering him a full-ride scholarship, whereas Iowa wanted Bower as a preferred walk-on.
“For me, my parents have worked their tails off,” Bower said in January 2013. “I could go walk on at Iowa and be fine. But it’s just that I want to pay my parents back for all they’ve done for me. I get a little emotional, thinking about it.
“But I know where my parents have come from and how hard they’ve worked. I haven’t had to do half the things they’ve had to. So I just want to give back to them. Some people might think whatever, but I really don’t care.”
Bower’s mission to pay back his parents is well under way as he was put on scholarship this week as afreshman, barely a year after joining the Iowa program as a preferred walk-on. He is listed as a co-starter at one of the three linebacker positions with junior Travis Perry, who also joined the Iowa program as a preferred walk-on.
Bower is also now less than a week from making his college debut against the same team he was so close to joining. Iowa will face Northern Iowa in the season opener Saturday atStadium.
The fact that Bower earned a scholarship so quickly is a tribute to his talent, his work ethic and his willingness to sacrifice in order to have a chance to achieve something greater.
Bower took a chance by turning down Northern Iowa’s scholarship, as did his parents by allowing their son to pursue his childhood dream of being a Hawkeye, even though it came with no financial guarantees.
Nothing was promised to Bower when he committed to Iowa, other than a chance to prove himself on a daily basis and be judged fairly. That’s how it is with every preferred walk-on at Iowa.
Bower is the latest in a growing list of players from in-state who were committed to Northern Iowa only to switch to Iowa near the end of the recruiting process. Two other notable examples are former tight end Brandon Myers and former defensive back Tanner Miller.
Their situations were different, though, because Myers and Miller both came to Iowa on scholarship, whereas Bower had to earn his after joining the team.
There is something special about walk-on football players at Iowa. They seem to have more guts and courage than ego and excuses. They cherish the idea of being a part of something greater than them and are willing to scrap and claw for everything they get.
It’s reasonable to think that some prospects from in-state probably get passed over for scholarships to play football at Iowa, but with the hope they would walk on.
It might not always seem fair, but it makes sense from a business standpoint. Why offer a kid from in-state whose upside is uncertain if he’s willing to pay his own way to school?
Bower, who is listed at 6-foot-1, 220-pounds, is slightly undersized for a Big Ten linebacker. He also played for a small high school against competition that some might consider suspect.
None of that really matters now, though, because Bower already has proven that he can compete at this level. You don’t become a co-starter as afreshman for a Big Ten team by accident.
You do so by believing in yourself and by seizing the opportunity.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football