Rob Davis has known Manny Bowen for as long as the latter has been on a football field.
Davis, the head coach at Barnegat, N.J., high school, coached Bowen when the now senior four-star was in youth football, and also in middle school. Now, after a few transfers, Bowen is back at Barnegat under Davis' watch.
Bowen committed to Penn State last Saturday, becoming the 17th verbal pledge to the program's Class of 2015 and first outside linebacker commit in the process. He picked the Lions over 25 other offers.
FightOnState.com chatted with Davis about Bowen's transformation on the field and off.
As you'll see, though, the linebacker's journey has been much more than just halting ball carriers and defending receivers.
Check out the Q&A with Davis below.
FOS: What's the one thing about Manny that stands out to you?
RD: This is Manny's third high school. There's a little story about Manny. He was in my lower levels, middle school programs, our youth football, and then he transferred to Southern Regional High School. The next year, he transferred to Central, and now he transferred back to Barnegat [in July 2013]. He came back with very bad grades, in terms of being an academic qualifier and all that stuff. The first thing when he came in here, and he said he wanted to play college ball. We were pretty tough on him that, we're not going to go that route until he proves not only to himself but to me that he's going to do it the right way academically, and he turned it around in the classroom. That's what I'm very proud of, what he's done in the classroom and not just on the football field. He's really gone 180 as a person, too
FOS: What do you think was the turning point for him? When did you see the light bulb click on for him?
RD: He did it right from the start. His finished with a 3.0 [GPA] in our school, and right away. His teachers really loved him, and he was excited about doing the right stuff. He was very conscious about being good all-around, not just on the football field.
FOS: What do you think he excels at best on the field?
RD: His closing speed is very impressive. When you see him just closing on [someone] from the backside, he just has a lot of athletic ability, a lot, and he's really starting to be more of a disciplined defender within our scheme. He just has a lot of natural athletic ability. He's going to put on 20 some pounds in college, be an outside linebacker that can come off the edge and cover the inside slot, so he has a lot of upside to him.
FOS: Did you have a feeling his recruitment would end at Penn State Saturday?
RD: Whatever they were doing, they were really connecting with him. Within the last couple months, he got very close to a lot of programs, and that's the thing: when you make a commitment like that, which he felt it was time to do, but when you think about all the other relationships he had, it kind of suppressed a 17-year-old kid saying, ‘Wow, I want to go to this school but those coaches at other programs were very interested in me too.' It kind of bums you out a little bit, but he does feel very comfortable with Penn State. He's very excited.