Ed Thompson: Looking back at your career at Oklahoma State, you certainly have a lot to be proud of — fourth all-time in the history of the school with 127 catches, and 2,187 yards receiving over two seasons. What are you most proud of when you evaluate your college career?
Adaraius Bowman: The thing I'm proudest of is getting my degree, and I know that's away from the football field, but that's really what I'm most proud of. From the football side, just going to OSU, thanking Coach Gunter Brewer for the second chance to get back on the field and taking full advantage of the opportunity and the experience.
Thompson: Some fans may not be aware of what you mean by getting a second chance. Tell them about what happened and why that was so important to where you stand today as you look forward to an NFL career.
Bowman: My mother had me when she was 14 and my father wasn't really around. So as a young man, I felt like I learned a lot on my own, tried to take a lot of things into my own hands. So coming into college at North Carolina, where I started out, it was sort of a big smack in the face because you've got to change, you've got to start listening to coaches, you've got to start listening to teachers. I was kind of bold as a youngster, didn't want to listen to the rules, and that cost me through an incident at North Carolina being in a room with two other guys where there had been smoking of marijuana in the room earlier in the day. And the smell was still there. Campus police and a floor monitor showed up at the room — which was a teammates' room — not mine. No one got arrested, I wasn't searched. But the room was searched and they found something in his room, and all three of us were cited for being in the room. But that night, I got a citation for possession of marijuana. My case ended up getting dropped, but I missed half of my sophomore season. I didn't get kicked out of North Carolina, but got released from the team. I stayed there during the spring of my sophomore year and got my grades up. During this whole time, my former wide receivers coach, Gunter Brewer, who was then working as the wide receivers coach at Oklahoma State, kept in touch with me and encouraged me to keep my grades up. It just started from there. I was young and made a bad decision even just being there, but I promise that I've learned from it. You can't change the things that happened, but you can get better from them, and that's what I'm trying to do. I'm working on meeting with high school kids and players and on setting up a foundation for single mothers. I want to work on becoming a role model for kids with a single parent, because I've been down that road and it makes it a lot more difficult to get prepared for college life and your professional life. There's a lot you miss out on as a kid that you start learning as an adult.
Adarius Bowman dives for the end zone on a 47-yard reception against Texas A&M.
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Thompson: What's the message you want to get out to those kids?
Bowman: First off, there's nothing good about drugs. It may feel good, you might think it makes you look good, but in the end it's nothing but trouble. You may get away with it for a while, but it will catch up with you. And I want to tell them to keep their heads up and to find someone they can look up to, and then try to be like that person. I spent my whole childhood trying to be like Michael Jordan, and I even ended up at North Carolina. I want to tell them to put a lot more focus on school and how to manage their time. Once you get to college, that's the biggest key along with getting as much as you can out of your classes. It's all about taking on the responsibilities of a young adult. Your parents aren't always going to be there for you — if you have parents — so you need to train yourself to do more things on your own and take responsibility for your own actions. And the key to that is your decisions, because your decisions are going to determine your life. You need to keep yourself out of situations and put yourself into a better position. That's what I had to do, just get away from that whole lifestyle that I was living and move to something new. It's hard, but it has to be done.
Thompson: It sounds like you've already learned some lessons that current NFL players like Pacman Jones still haven't acknowledged or learned in regards to where they go, who they surround themselves with and the situations they're putting themselves into. So you're heading into the NFL with perhaps a better awareness of that outlook than some of them have.
Bowman: I hate that the incident happened at North Carolina, but when I look at the positive side of it, I'm glad it happened then rather than now or later in my career. I know that was a turning point in my life. I went from coming out of high school as one of the top receivers in the nation, living so high, to having it taken away from me in a second. It was the worst feeling I ever experienced in my life the next morning when the coaches told me I was done playing ball and I'm on ESPN — possession of marijuana, kicked off the team — that's a feeling I never want any young kid to experience.
Thompson: How did you pull yourself up from what had to be a feeling of despair, a feeling that your college football career was over?
Bowman: I'm not going to lie to you. It wasn't easy at all. I can remember on three different occasions where I was just ready to give up, head back home to Chattanooga, Tennessee. I didn't even know what I was going to do when I got home, but I was thinking that if I went home I could just erase the fact that it had even happened. I give a lot of thanks to God, Coach Gunter Brewer and my mom for supporting me and telling me that it wasn't the end of the world. At the time, it felt like that was it, that all I had and knew was how to play sports, and when one of the most valuable things is taken away, there was nothing left to do. But some of my teammates told me to keep my head up and that something good could come out of this. I even had one of the deans trying to help me to keep me in school, she helped me out a lot. So I had some great people who helped me through that process, and the Lord made good things happen for me.
Thompson: In high school, you were a state champ in the triple jump, long jump, high jump, and the 4x100 relay. How much of a role has that played in your success to date?
Bowman: It's played a major role because a guy of my size — tall, long and lanky — and then I get to college and add some muscle weight. So it helped me tremendously to still be able to move well carrying the additional weight. Some guys would have been slowed down by that, so track helped me out a lot with that. HIgh jumping and long jumping helped out when it comes down to jumping up and making those big plays over those taller DBs.
Bowman makes another catch, using his big body frame to his advantage.
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Thompson: Which of your skills do you believe translate well immediately to the NFL?
Bowman: I feel my strength and my body frame are a real advantage in blocking and when going up against those safeties and corners. Also my quickness — having quick body twitches — coming off the line and coming out of breaks. And my ability to catch the ball and make big plays, that's a big part of my game.
Thompson: Is it true that up until April, 2007 you were playing football with 20/900 vision?
Bowman: Oh man, yeah. And something you probably don't know is that April 20 I had the Lasik eye surgery, which was the best thing that happened to me in my life. But then in June, I had an incident where I accidentally got bleach in my eyes, so I had to go back to using contacts. It scarred my eyes really bad, and day by day my vision was getting worse. By the time I got to September and the start of the season, I felt like I was back at square one. They explained that it was part of the healing process, sort of like getting a scab on your skin, but that makes you see worse while it's healing. So I went back to contacts for the season because I couldn't get Lasik during the season and miss the week or so while I was recovering. It was kind of bothering me at the Senior Bowl, so I went back the Tuesday after the Senior Bowl and had the Lasik surgery done again, so now I'm back at 20/15.
Thompson: Before April, 2007 how were you able to play as a wide receiver? What did things look like by comparison to today?
Bowman: I remember that when I got to high school, we'd have night games and I really couldn't see the ball once it got dark. The games would start around 7 o'clock and it would still be in the light so the first half would go OK, but then as it got dark I told my coach I couldn't really see the ball. I never really knew my eyes were bad until I saw what the correct way to see looked like, and that was crazy. So I ended up getting contacts in 10th grade. Contacts worked, but being a receiver, the contacts don't really move with your eyes. You try to catch a ball over your shoulder, you're kind of looking up and out of the corner of your eye and the contacts wouldn't make it up that far and I'd misjudge some balls. Coach Brewer, who plays a big father role in my life, he talked to me about Lasik and I was afraid of it for a while because this is the only set of eyes I've got, and I've heard that for some people it doesn't turn out as well. He finally talked me into getting it done, and it turned out to be the best thing for me.
Thompson: Let's talk about your Senior Bowl experience. You met with the Colts there — did you walk away from that conversation thinking about the fact that you could be catching passes from Peyton Manning next year?
Bowman: I did. This past summer I worked with Peyton, Eli and his father at the Manning Academy camp in Louisiana. I thought back on that experience and remembered how I was joking with Peyton one night, saying, "Man, you need to pick me up, I could be catching balls from you." I was working at the camp, kind of coaching the 9th and 10th graders. But one day down there, my quarterback from Oklahoma State was throwing some balls to me and on two of my routes Peyton stepped in and threw to me. And when I made the catch, it was like the greatest feeling in the world because I realized I was catching balls from one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. That was a wonderful experience.
Bowman: I watched a lot of film on Marvin Harrison this year, and it's hard to even talk about the thought of getting to play with him.
Thompson: Who else did you talk to in Mobile that you felt you really connected with?
Bowman: The Minnesota Vikings. I felt like right there, that was the team I had my best interview with. Also the Miami Dolphins, the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those are the ones I felt like I had my best interviews with.
Bowman displays his vertical leaping ability and body control.
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Thompson: Why did the Vikings interview stand out to you so much?
Bowman: During the time I spent with them, the things the coaches were asking me — I mean, we talked about football, but they also wanted to know me. I got the opportunity to tell them about where I came from as a young kid who had to learn a lot on his own. I felt they really gave me the opportunity to let them know who I was, just not what I could do as a football player. And then one of the coaches turned around and told me some things about him.
Thompson: How about your talk with Tampa Bay? They certainly could use a receiver with your skills.
Bowman: They also wanted to get to know me better. And they knew one of my strength coaches from Oklahoma State. They said he talks about me to them all the time. We laughed about a few things and really got to know each other well.
Thompson: You made a nice catch in the corner of the end zone during the Senior Bowl. Did you believe that they wiped it out saying you didn't have complete control?
Bowman: To this day, people still tell me they robbed me out of a touchdown, and there's nothing I can do about that. It kind of stunk that we didn't have instant replay so we could immediately see what it looked like. But I still feel like I made that catch.
Thompson: You did make that catch. I was shocked that they took it away from you.
Bowman: Yeah, but that's how it rolls sometimes. But I still had a great experience down at the Senior Bowl.
Thompson: What was the most fun you had all week?
Bowman: The most fun was in practice. Seeing these guys you see on TV all year and then you're out there with those guys who are among the top players in the nation. Just seeing their attitude and hearing about their experiences in college and in high school, and then going out there and playing with them, it's really something. On every play, every player was going all-out. And that brings even more excitement to playing the game. I know that's just a small taste of what the NFL is going to be like, and I'm ready for it, I can't wait.
Thompson: Out of all those talented defensive backs you worked against that week, who was the guy that you decided you are really glad you don't have to work against each week?
Bowman: From the South squad, I liked (Dominique) Rodgers-Cromartie from Tennessee State. I liked watching him on game day. I didn't get to work against him during the week. But I watched his feet, and while many DBs make their break after three to five steps, that guy, I think he was making his on one. He broke on the ball so quickly. But the guy who really sticks in my head is Tracy Porter from Indiana. I also got to play against him in the Insight Bowl game this year. I love his style, he's aggressive, has great feet, and you can tell he enjoys the game. He's a guy who goes hard on every play, I'll always remember him.