It’s already been a busy month of December for California quarterback commit Ross Bowers. He won a state title, got national notoriety for his flip into the end zone, made his official visit to Berkeley this past weekend and, on Wednesday, signed his financial aid agreement to come in early, along with defensive back Derron Brown and defensive end DeVante Wilson.
“It was awesome to be back on campus, and it’s never a bad day in Berkeley,” Bowers said.
Two days after Christmas, Bowers will participate in the Burger King Classic, pitting his Bothell (Wash.) squad against a team from Florida, and then, on Jan. 18, he’ll start classes in Berkeley.
“I’m planning on getting there Jan. 18, and trying to win a Rose Bowl from then on,” said Bowers, after signing his agreement. “That’s going to be a thing, so I’m excited.”
Also a ‘thing’? That flip.
“She wanted me to do a double,” Bowers laughed, as he recalled the reaction of his mother – Washington gymnastics coach Joanne Bowers -- to him sticking the landing. “The first thing she said to me as I came off the field, after we won, was ‘You should have done a double.’ I was like, ‘Are you serious? You’ve never seen me do that before in a football game, and it’s not good enough for you yet?’ I guess I’ve got to try harder next time.”
Bowers has a good sense of humor about the amount of attention the touchdown has gotten, and his new reputation as a mobile, running – and leaping – quarterback.
“I’ve been getting way too much attention, just because of that play,” Bowers said. “I’m soaking it up. I’m not complaining. It was a nice thing that I got to celebrate with my teammates after, and it’s just blown up ever since.
“My thing is, don’t get it confused, man: I’m a pocket passer. I ain’t going to be running the ball a lot. Don’t be getting that all confused,” Bowers laughed.
What made the flip special was that it helped seal a state championship with teammates Bowers said he “wouldn’t trade for all the world.”
“It was our first state title in football in school history, and our coaching staff had gotten close the last 15 years, so we were just glad we could be the first,” Bowers said. “You could tell it meant a lot to them, and it meant a lot to us, too.”
Bowers – who saw his leap played on ESPN -- also got plenty of attention from his fellow official visitors for the stunt.
“They didn’t know it was me, and then, as soon as they saw – a couple of guys had already seen it, and didn’t know it was me. There were a couple guys who hadn’t seen it yet, and I showed them, so they were all pretty impressed.”
And the coaching staff?
“They were impressed, and you could definitely tell that they didn’t know they had it in me,” Bowers laughed. “To be honest, I didn’t know I really had it in me, either, so that was pretty cool. They were saying, ‘Good thing you got it out of your system, because you ain’t going to do it here. You’re not going to jumping over dudes here, so keep throwing the ball and earn your scholarship.’”
This weekend’s visit set the stage for his signing, and Bowers came away very satisfied, with two commitments coming in its wake, the most important of which – at least for Bowers – came in the person of Nick Buchanan, who said of Bowers’s flip: “I saw that a few times. It’s an amazing play.”
“Having a brick wall in front of you never hurts, and I know he works hard,” said Bowers. “You don’t get that big – you’re not born like that. It shows how hard of a worker he is in the weight room and in the offseason, getting his body that nice and right. That definitely encouraged me, that this guys is for real, and he takes the offseason seriously. He’s just such a big human being. He’s definitely a great get – kind of like a person and a half, blocking, so that’s kind of nice.”
Bowers didn’t have to do much to nudge Buchanan into his decision, if anything at all.
“I was really just hanging out,” Bowers said. “I’m not a big recruiter, where I say, ‘You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to come here because of blah blah blah.’ I’m just straight up: Come to a place where you really feel like you can go and take things out of the equation – if you’re not going to play football, would you really be happy to go here? Stuff like that. Make sure it’s the people that you’re coming here for, and make sure that it’s the decision for you, personally, and not your parents, or whoever it is. It has to be a decision that you’re going to live with for the next four years.
“With Nick, I didn’t know that he wasn’t really highly-recruited, so I was just talking him into, ‘Hey, me and you could do some damage on that field, man,’ and stuff like that, and also just telling him what the four years could be, with me and him and all these other guys hanging out and how much fun we could have. He was in a situation where, it was kind of the same as me. Cal was our best offer, and we had to jump on it. You can’t say ‘No’ to it. It was a great opportunity, and he took it, just like I did. I think we are both very, very happy with our decisions, and I think, in the end, he made the decision on his own. I probably had a little bit of influence to maybe speed up the process, I guess you could say. I wouldn’t credit myself with anything in his decision, but I maybe put some thoughts in his head that he wouldn’t have been thinking, alone.”
Bowers is ecstatic that Buchanan made the call, especially because Buchanan will be protecting Bowers in the not-so-distant future.
“I’m sure that my body, about Week 10, will be thankful for him,” Bowers said. “He’s a massive man.”
Bowers and Buchanan bonded over their somewhat similar recruitments, and the chips on both of their shoulders that resulted.
“I love that he was an under-the-radar kid like myself, just because I know what type of mentality he’s going to come in with – that underdog mentality, chip on your shoulder, that everyone didn’t realize who you were,” said Bowers. “That was cool for me. We had that same mentality of, not going out to prove ourselves, but just going out and grinding. That’s all we know, and all we do. I like to surround myself with people like him, and where better than protecting my back?”
It was forming those types of bonds that stuck out most for Bowers, who described the group of visitors as “really high-character.”
“This was a really, really good group of guys, not just on the field, but off, really fun to be around, talk with and hang out with,” Bowers said. “I really just had a great time just hanging out with them, just because they’re very similar in what they laugh at and what I laugh at, and also, they’re all just really fun to be around. They all like to talk, they all like to be around other people, so it was a fun time. The most memorable for me were the relationships I made with those guys.”
That group got to attend the team awards banquet on Saturday night, and got a very intimate look at the program they’ll be joining.
“The sense I got was that, this was obviously a tough year, not making it to a bowl, but I think that they realized that they’re going to be the team that started the whole Cal movement,” Bowers said. “I think my class is going to be the ones that get all the credit, and possibly the fame and the trophies, but this team that we got to see was the one that laid down the foundation and turned the culture around, which is just as important, if not more.
“It’s always hard being the team that doesn’t win, but I think that they’ll be remembered, because they were the first team to change the culture of the entire football program, which is huge. It’s that much more important.”