LEXINGTON, Ky. — Lynn Bowden reaches into his pocket and fishes out a cell phone. Leaning again in a cafe sales space on a heat afternoon in early March, he scrolls and scrolls and scrolls till he in any case reveals the picture he is on the lookout for. It is a screenshot of a textual content message he gained at 9:06 a.m. on Sept. 29 — the morning after Kentucky misplaced at the highway at South Carolina.
The sport in itself was once a letdown as Kentucky fell to 0-Three in convention play. Bowden, a junior receiver, had handiest 3 catches for 18 yards. However with not up to 7 mins last and the ranking 24-0, one thing sudden took place. A spark. Kentucky were given the ball again and Bowden took over at quarterback — now not only for a snap however all of the ownership — and marched the offense 84 yards down the sphere for a landing.
The overdue place trade slightly made the recaps, however to somebody observing, it felt like a trail ahead for a staff that was once differently circling the drain. Which brings us again to the textual content message. It is from anyone on the subject of Bowden, he says. And, in truth, he believes they supposed neatly on the time. However it touched a nerve. So whilst he is relaxed appearing the message to a reporter, he does not need the writer known. He scribbles over the touch knowledge simply to be protected.
“Have in mind you a most sensible 3 around WR,” the message reads, “you’ll do this s— however they wanna see you play … do not allow them to f— you for they wins.”
Bowden has learn this numerous occasions within the months because it was once despatched, however even now he shakes his head in disbelief. He did not reply as a result of he did not know what to mention. What this individual did not perceive concerning the state of affairs may make up a listing so long as Bowden’s throwing arm.
Maximum necessary, it was once in reality Bowden’s resolution to play quarterback. He’d been hounding coaches about it all over the sport, telling head trainer Mark Stoops, “Let me move!”
How briefly folks had forgotten his highschool days, when he was once a celeb dual-threat quarterback in Youngstown, Ohio. How simply they’d forgotten that Kentucky recruited him to play Wildcat QB sooner than transferring him to receiver.
All Bowden ever sought after was once the soccer in his arms. And on that day, with all hope misplaced, he was once obsessive about something: profitable. The long-term ramifications be damned.
A minimum of that is the place he and the messenger had one thing in commonplace. Neither knew what converting positions would imply for Bowden’s long run — that it will put him in a distinct gentle and switch him into one of the crucial attention-grabbing avid gamers to look at within the upcoming NFL draft, conjuring pictures of multidimensional professionals like New Orleans Saints do-everything quarterback Taysom Hill.
Considering again to that point of uncertainty, Bowden glances up at highlights of the NFL mix taking part in on a TV display above his head and smiles.
“It is the most productive factor to ever occur to me,” he says.
That landing force towards South Carolina had coaches considering. It took handiest 5 performs and a pair of mins, however assistant trainer Darin Hinshaw recalls observing Bowden at quarterback and announcing to himself, “Whats up, we now have were given one thing right here.”
However heading right into a pivotal bye week — the staff one recreation beneath .500 and the season at the verge of collapse — Stoops wasn’t so positive about making it an everlasting transfer. Terry Wilson, the Week 1 starter, was once already out for the season, and backup Sawyer Smith was once taking part in thru a chipped bone in his wrist and a not too long ago separated shoulder. However Smith was once a gamer, bless his middle, and he would stay going in the market and grinding in the event that they let him.
Right through a Monday personnel assembly, Stoops requested offensive coordinator Eddie Gran what he sought after to do. Going to Bowden would constitute a pointy left flip. As a result of he wasn’t a full-time QB, they might need to scrap the present offense and depend closely at the run recreation.
“We are pulling our hair out,” Stoops stated. “What are we going to do right here?”
A fellow Youngstown child, Stoops cherished Bowden. Along with taking part in broad receiver and Wildcat QB, he was once the principle go back guy and was once at the verge of turning into a unprecedented two-way participant, working towards at nickel cornerback till intensity at quarterback turned into problematic.
What is extra, Bowden, who entered this system an immature freshman, had turn out to be a pace-setter at the staff and was once one of the crucial aggressive guys Stoops had ever coached. “He is tricky as nails,” Stoops stated.
Besides, Stoops had to be offered when Gran stated they must transfer Bowden to QB complete time. Hinshaw laughed as he recalled Stoops popping his head into the offensive assembly room in a while and reiterating to himself up to somebody else, “OK, we are transferring Lynn to quarterback.”
“Then he left and got here again in, ‘Are you guys positive? We nonetheless want to have a package deal with different quarterbacks but even so him. We will’t do exactly all him, proper?'” Hinshaw stated. The offensive personnel reassured Stoops they might be able. “Then he got here in a 3rd time, ‘Are you positive?'”
Apply wasn’t precisely lovely as Bowden knocked the rust off his throwing movement. Hinshaw stated there have been a couple of occasions the personnel questioned aloud whether or not they have been idiots for attempting this. But if the ball was once in Bowden’s arms, there was once no denying it: He was once a herbal playmaker. It’s essential inform he was once simply the most productive athlete at the box, Hinshaw stated.
However what stood out probably the most was once simply how briefly Bowden absorbed knowledge. Have in mind, he hadn’t performed receiver in any respect till he were given to school, and 5 months later he stuck 17 passes for 210 yards and was once named to the SEC all-freshman staff. A yr after that, he led Kentucky in receptions (67), receiving yards (745) and landing catches (5).
Thrust into the quarterback room for the primary time, Bowden discovered the playbook in leaps and boundaries. Requested how lengthy it took him to grasp protections, he stated, “I were given it that week.”
“You would be remiss to not point out it for your article: The fellow is unbelievably clever,” Stoops stated. “What he was once ready to do is not only an athlete again there taking snaps. The best way he may set performs up, direct performs, motions, know the place everyone is meant to be, know all of the motions and reads and issues, it was once really exceptional.”
In his first recreation at quarterback, Bowden threw for 78 yards, one landing and no interceptions, and ran for 196 yards and two ratings as Kentucky beat Arkansas. Then, in rainstorms, he ran for 99 yards towards one of the vital most sensible defenses within the nation in Georgia and crowned the 200-yard speeding mark towards Missouri.
Kentucky went 6-2 with Bowden at the back of heart, and he wound up main the SEC in speeding yards (1,468).
“How do I put this in a humble means?” Bowden stated. “A few of these groups on protection are not so good as they believe they’re. They knew we have been going to run the ball 50 occasions a recreation and there was once just one recreation I used to be underneath 100 yards, and that recreation I had 99. So …”
Now not missing self assurance, he picked up the thread a second later.
“If I’d have began at quarterback, I believe like I may have gained a Heisman,” he persevered. “The numbers would had been loopy. I performed 8 video games [at quarterback] and had 1,500 yards. Believe if I performed an additional 5.”
The NFL was once already keen on Bowden, however the place trade put scouting departments on understand. All of sudden there have been sun shades of former Kentucky nice Randall Cobb to imagine. Comparisons to the Saints’ Hill turned into unavoidable. And if groups regarded carefully, they might have observed that Bowden was once working most of the identical read-option performs Lamar Jackson ran at Louisville and with the Baltimore Ravens.
Actually, Bowden began finding out Jackson the instant he moved to quarterback. “Simply to look how he strikes, the way in which he runs, it was once a good looking factor,” he stated. He claims to have learn just one mock draft, and coincidentally it had him going to the Ravens.
Whilst nobody goes to confuse Bowden’s arm with that of Jackson’s, he has proved himself to be efficient at throwing a publish or a move direction. Thrust into motion remaining season, he finished 35 of 74 passes for 403 yards and 3 touchdowns. And that’s the reason sufficient to stay defenses fair. Hill has tried handiest 13 profession passes within the NFL.
On his podcast First Draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay stated he believes Bowden generally is a second- or third-round select. “He is roughly as of late’s NFL man,” McShay stated.
“The sport at the present time is converting for the easier,” Bowden stated, “particularly for me as a result of I will do anything else at the box. The way of recreation, everyone seems to be getting sooner.”
An harm stored him from acting on the mix, and the coronavirus pandemic in the end close down his likelihood at preserving a professional day, however Bowden stated he persistently runs within the 4.4-, 4.5-second vary of the 40-yard sprint. “Flip the sport movie on and it seems like I am working a 4.3,” he added.
Someone who watched him remaining season would have a difficult time disagreeing with that. The transfer to quarterback made him one of the crucial thrilling avid gamers to look at within the SEC.
Hinshaw stated he noticed scouts who’d come to guage Bowden early within the season go back to campus asking extra questions. He idea the Georgia recreation specifically — when he made two of the most productive safeties within the recreation glance foolish every now and then — confirmed the NFL, “If we get the ball in his arms, he could make somebody leave out.”
“Is he going to be a full-time quarterback within the NFL?” Hinshaw stated. “No, I do not believe somebody is considering that. However may they get in a Wildcat state of affairs with him at quarterback? Yeah, I believe they believe that. Anything else you’ll do to get a bonus on this game, guys are taking a look at. And you’ll do this with him.”
He added: “I did communicate to more than one — more than one — scouts, and actually his inventory went, each week, up and up and up and up. All they stated is that he made himself some huge cash.”
Individually, Bowden sees himself as a Deebo Samuel sort — essentially a large receiver along with a menace to run the Wildcat. He desires to proceed taking part in on particular groups, too.
However the place he is going and what place he performs is not necessary. He is prepared to line up at tight finish if want be. He may also move within the trenches towards the large boys, he stated, and “get in anyone’s means.”
He simply desires the risk to blow their own horns his versatility.
As at all times, he is chomping on the bit to have the ball in his arms and make one thing occur.
“Each staff I talked to sought after to make use of me in more than one techniques,” Bowden stated. “Working again. Receiver. Some Wildcat quarterback. Punt go back.
“My mindset is I am coming to take anyone’s activity. And my first yr there, now not 3 years down the road.”