New California commit Ross Bowers likes to go bowling with his friends in what little free time he has, between getting his fill of pro and college football on the NFL Network, Big Ten Network and Pac-12 Networks. His bowling career, though, isn’t going anywhere, any time soon.
“I am a below-average bowler. I’ll be 100 percent honest with you, I won’t fluff around it: I ain’t bowling anywhere near a perfect game,” says Bowers. “I’m lucky to hit nine to eight pins at a time. That’s like, a really good throw for me. My bowling career is going nowhere fast, but I still like to do it.”
It’s sure a good thing he has that whole quarterback thing to fall back on.
Looking at his junior tape won’t tell you much about the quarterback that Bowers is these days, though. Even though it’s only been just over seven months since the season ended, Bowers has made huge strides, as evinced by his participation in this week’s Elite 11 Finals in Beaverton, Ore. Looking back at his tape, even he’ll admit that he wasn’t elite.
That’s all changed, since he took a long, hard look at the quarterback he was, and decided what kind of quarterback he would will himself into becoming.
“I saw that my footwork needed a lot of tweaking, just because it wasn’t as tight as a lot of the top guys in the nation, when I compared myself,” says Bowers. “I felt like my playmaking ability could compete with anybody, but there was little stuff that QBs can work on – how to pull a safety off and how to use your eyes to trick a defense, or pre-snap, how to make a blitzer show that he’s blitzing early – stuff like that, that I could try to take my game to the next level.”
He’s done just that.
During Tuesday morning’s team drills at The Opening, Bowers had just finished a throw and moved to the back of the line. A player threw the ball back to Bowers, and he was way off target.
That didn’t matter to Ross. He leaped toward the ball, stabbing it with one hand and coming down with it. Some of his teammates saw the play, shaking their heads in disbelief.
“Man, that dude is wearing the wrong color jersey!” said one player, noting how Bowers should be playing defense after such an athletic display.
“I haven’t seen him throw a pass yet, but I know just off that move he’s a Division-1 athlete,” added Scott Kennedy, Scout.com’s Director of Scouting.
“With the Elite 11 aspect of it, just trying to get my mechanics as tight as I could,” says Bowers. “I got a little sloppy. I was a little surprised by that. In the game, you don’t feel anything; you just kind of play. When I went back and lost my tape, there was a little sloppiness to it that I was kind of surprised about. I wanted to get it as clean as I could.”
So far, Bowers has demonstrated that he’s one of the best under-the-radar quarterback prospects in the nation, and he’s done it on national TV, no less.
“It’s awesome. I love competing, and people watching, that just makes me compete just a little bit harder,” he says. “It’s such a fun opportunity to throw against these guys, some of the top guys in the nation and a couple under-the-radar guys like myself. It’s just fun. All these guys play football and are the best of the best QBs that my class has to offer. That’s just cool. It’s cool to even be considered one of them, and also to compete against them. It’s pretty awesome.”
When Bowers visited Berkeley last month, fellow Elite 11 quarterback Luke Rubenzer showed him around campus. Rubenzer was notable in his high school career for being quite the runner. Bowers – while plenty athletic – won’t blow your socks off with his speed, but he knows how to get skinny and slippery when he needs to.
“I think it’s not a big part of my game, but I’m very good at finding holes within the defense to scramble and get eight to nine yards and then run out of bounds,” he says. “I’m good at that. My coach doesn’t let me run at all. We haven’t had depth behind me at all, so he’s never designed a run and never gave me the freedom to run – not that I’m a 4.4 guy, but I can make people miss. I’ll start getting that freedom my senior year, and maybe have a couple runs here and there.
“I’ve always prided myself on my escapability. That’s what I call it. That’s what us unathletic QBs call it -- escapability -- being able to make somebody miss and still being able to set your feet on the run and throw, just being able to make a play.”
Rubenzer, Bowers says, wasn’t a huge part of his recruitment, but the way the 2014 signee conducted himself during Bowers’ visit last month really opened his eyes.
“He was just cool. He walked me around a little bit, introduced me to everybody. He was just a cool guy,” Bowers says. “Obviously, with QBs, we’re both competing for one job. He could have been a jerk to me and make me not like Cal, because he’s there. It was pretty cool to actually see him recruit his own position. That shows you how much confidence he has in himself, which was pretty cool. That’s a guy that I would like to compete against, and also be friends with and teammates with. He wasn’t a huge part of my recruitment, but he kind of just showed me how the guys are, and stuff like that.”
Bowers is also a dyed-in-the-wool competitor. The son of two coaches – his mother coaches gymnastics at Washington, and his father John coaches fullbacks and tight ends at James Madison – Bowers spends his free time watching as much football as he can.
“I always make sure I get my ESPN. I always make sure to stay up on my sports,” says Bowers, who’s girlfriend, Jordana Price, hit the game-winner to cap off a 30-point performance the night before Bowers committed. “I really love watching NFL Network, and I really like watching the Big Ten and Pac-12 Networks, just because they always play old college football games, and I just love watching those. When I get a chance to watch TV, that’s what I watch.”
Neither of Bowers’ parents pressured him into any decision, and being an Ohio native, the concept of ‘staying at home’ in Seattle didn’t really play much of a factor.
“[My mom] has always been cool. She was definitely on board, because she always says, ‘You’re the one who’s going to have to live with it, at the end of the day,’” Bowers says. “[My dad] was just kind of letting me make my own decision, because I’d be the one living with it, at the end of the day. He’s been nothing but helpful. He’s given me a ton of good insight, shown me what’s real, what’s not. He had a connection with coach Mark Tommerdahl – the slot receiver coach for Cal. They go way back in the day and all that stuff, so they were good buddies. He knows he can trust him, and gives some trust to that program.”
Moving so far away from both of his parents will give Bowers a chance to grow up, and it’s a challenge he’s more than willing to take on.
“We moved out here to Seattle from Ohio just before fourth grade. I’m actually kind of in favor of moving, to be honest. It’s something I’ll have to tackle, something I’ll have to get used to, but I feel like it’ll help me mature as an adult,” Bowers says. “It’s someplace that I’d really like to live, individually. Now, I have an opportunity to do that. I think that’s something that I could take advantage of, and I’m going to. It’s pretty cool.
“It’s the greatest education in the country. It’s not like we’re getting into Ivy League schools, so you might as well try and get into the best school that you possibly can, and possibly the best conference.”
Beyond the Commitment: More than the Tape
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