'Ice Box' Bowens

The Chicago Bears chilled a lot of opponents in the late 1980s and early '90s with a defensive tackle named "Refrigerator" Perry. Now the Tennessee Vols are hoping for similar results with "Ice Box" Bowens.

Minor Bowens may never match William Perry in terms of NFL accolades but he's on par in terms of colorful nicknames.

"We call him 'Ice Box' because his hands are cold," fellow Vol defensive tackle Montori Hughes said this week.

At 6-3 and 293 pounds, "Ice Box" Bowens is a small appliance compared to "Refrigerator" Perry, whose playing weight peaked at 382 pounds. Still, Bowens could be a big key for a Tennessee defense that is alarmingly thin at tackle.

"He brings a lot," Hughes said. "He'll be fine."

Originally from Memphis, Bowens transferred to UT after starting his college career at Tennessee State. He redshirted as a TSU freshman in 2006, then saw backup action at defensive tackle in 2007. He enrolled at Tennessee in 2008 but sat out the season as a transfer. Bowens moved from D-tackle to guard a year ago but did not see game action for the '09 Vols. He recently returned to defensive tackle, the position he considers his best.

"I feel real good," he said. "This is the position I played in high school, and I feel I'm in a better position to play. It's a position I love and I'm working hard at it."

Although he spent 2009 on offense, Bowens expects to pick up Tennessee's new defensive scheme quickly.

"The basics are already inherent because I already played the position," he said. "Now it's just getting the playbook. You always have that, and I played defense before, so it's just a process."

Because he came to Tennessee as a walk-on, Bowens had to pay his own way. Hoping to earn some scholarship money, he also tried out for the Vol track team. His hard work produced a 10th-place finish in the discus at the SEC Outdoor Championships last spring.

With his bank account dwindling, Bowens got great news earlier this month: Vol head man Derek Dooley was putting him on scholarship for his senior year.

"It meant the world to me," Bowens said. "I really needed the money because I was paying for school myself. That's why I was doing track, too ... trying to get help any way I can. I knew I could play some sport and I was trying to make it because the money was running thin.

"I'm really excited that Coach Dooley gave me the opportunity and gave me a scholarship."

Asked if his track training helped keep him in shape for football, Bowens laughed.

"There are benefits in track," he said, "but nothing gets you in shape for football but football."

Given Tennessee's depth woes at tackle, he has a chance to win a spot in line coach Chuck Smith's rotation this fall.

"I feel like I'm making real good progress," Bowens said. "My attitude is very positive, and I had a good scrimmage (Saturday). I'm working hard and listening to Coach Smith because that's the person who can get me there."

Bowens has worked hard in practice since arriving on The Hill two years ago. He'd love to finish his career with a flourish.

"This is what I've been dreaming," he said. "I've been dreaming of playing college football at the D-1 level, and I'm working to make that dream a reality."

There were times when the long practices and the tired muscles led him to wonder if transferring to Tennessee was a mistake. At such times he knew where to turn for help.

"My dad," Bowens said. "It's been a long process for me but he made sure I stayed determined, focused and positive."

Now, at long last, his dedication is on the verge of being rewarded. The Bowens family is understandably pumped.

"My dad is very excited," Minor said. "This is a dream of mine, and I accomplished it. Now I'm working hard to make sure I can get a lot of snaps and make this a great senior year for me."

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