Ole Miss senior Defensive End Chris Bowers had become so despondent about his football career that he was going to graduate last May and hang up his cleats and shoulder pads.
He had no desire to play the game any longer.
The tension surrounding the program the last couple of years had killed his passion for the game.
"There was too much tension," Bowers noted. "I play football because I love it. I had lost the passion to play. The three years prior just wore me down. I really didn't care to play anymore under those conditions."
A string of injuries was part of what sapped him, but it went beyond that.
"I will give you an example. I had an MCL injury in August camp. The doctors said I'd be out four weeks. I came back in a week," he explained. "It was because I wanted to be back playing. I wanted to have some urgency again. When I was injured before, I just didn't have the urgency to get well because I was dreading playing a game I love a lot. I was depressed all the time and you can't rehab right when your heart is not in it."
Bowers got his desire back quickly. Two words changed his whole perspective. Houston Nutt.
"I was recruited by Coach Nutt in high school and I always watched him. I knew he was a player's coach. I just didn't want to go to Arkansas," Chris noted. "When I heard he was coming here, I wanted to give football another shot and went through spring training. My love of the game returned and here I am.
"I'm having fun again. I have football fever again. I love playing for this staff. They have made it fun again."
He played middle linebacker in spring training, but he asked to move back to DE when Greg Hardy went down with a foot injury.
"If I had been at linebacker my whole career, I might have picked things up better, but MLB is the QB of the whole defense and you have to know everything there is to know about the defense," he assessed. "At DE, you don't have to think as much and can just play. At this stage in my career, it suits me better. I can help the team at DE I believe."
There was one other factor that has turned out to be a positive in his comeback, if you will. Playing for DL Coach Tracy Rocker.
"Coach Rock helps your mindset. I love him. He's fun to play for. He makes the game fun," Chris added. "He's very demanding, but he takes the positive approach. He doesn't dog-cuss you in meetings or on the field. He wants to make you better. I respect him and look up to him. He makes me want to play hard for him."
In the opener, the Rebel defensive line wasn't able to get a lot of pressure on the Memphis quarterback due to the quick passing game they employed. Wake Forest will do some of the same stuff in their spread formations.
"It's frustrating because every defensive lineman wants to do two things - sack the quarterback and tackle running backs behind the line of scrimmage," he explained. "It was hard to do either against Memphis, but what you have to do, and be disciplined enough to do, is once the QB releases the ball, you have to turn and chase the ball down.
"That's tougher, but that's just part of the game with today's offenses. Offensive coaches are not going to let defenses ring up five or six QB sacks a game like they used to. They'd rather throw it quick and take their chances that way."
Bowers says he has faith in the Rebel defense to put better showings up as games click by.
"We'll get Peria Jerry and Greg back and we'll start settling in to the system more," he closed. "We have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. We just have to keep working hard and it will all fall into place."
Bowers will be in there swinging. Now, the fun is back and he has the desire to play the game again.
What a difference two little words can make. . .
Chris Bowers -
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