The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Bowman holds additional FBS offers from Arkansas State, Georgia State, Rice, and Southern Miss, as well as FCS offers from Columbia, Dartmouth, and Liberty.
But reeling in that first Power Five offer was a good feeling, said Bowman, who's been in touch for some time with receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker.
"The offer didn't surprise me," Bowman said, "because I called coach Stoker before the spring and he liked my film. Then he came down (during spring practice) to watch me and really, really liked me, so he told the OC (Garrick McGee) to come down."
Once McGee had also seen Bowman in person, the offer materialized.
"They love my football smarts and my ability to command and control my team," said Bowman, who will be a four-year starter for Texas Class 5A Grapevine High School in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. "And they said I have special talent that is hard to find.
"I have not visited Illinois, but it is definitely a place I am planning on visiting this summer."
Bowman said the Illinois staff's time spent at the professional level stands out to him.
"The staff has a lot of NFL experience," he said, "and with Lovie Smith at the top, it really is intriguing."
As a junior this past fall, Bowman led Grapevine High School to a 10-2 record and Texas Class 5A Division II second-round playoff appearance. He threw for 3,240 yards, 42 touchdowns, and only six interceptions, while rushing for 204 yards and three scores.
What is Bowman working on this offseason as he prepares for his senior season?
"To really show people I can move with my legs," Bowman said, "and to really understand and manipulate defenses."
2016: As a junior, Bowman led Grapevine to a 10-2 record and second-round playoff appearance in Texas Class 5A Division II. He accounted for 3,444 total yards of offense and 45 total touchdowns. Bowman threw for 3,240 yards, 42 TD's, and six interceptions, while running for 204 yards and three scores.
2015: Bowman produced a breakout sophomore season, throwing for 2,711 yards, 27 touchdowns, and six interceptions while completing 64 percent of his passes. He led Grapevine to an 8-3 record and first-round playoff appearance.
2014: Bowman made his varsity debut as a freshman, throwing for 1,750 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions in eight starts.