The long wait is finally over for Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. After being considered a candidate to be the number one overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Bowers fell to the Bucs second-round pick, the 51st overall, before having his draft slide halted.
“The last twenty-four hours has been crazy long. You know,” said Bowers. “It’s been grueling just looking for that one phone call. I’m just glad for the opportunity that Tampa Bay gave me. I just want to show them that they made a great pick and it wasn’t a mistake picking me.
“I didn’t expect the wait to be this long at all. You know, I was expecting to go off the board in the first round, but, you know, I’m just glad that Tampa Bay liked me enough to pick me where they picked me at, and I’m just grateful for the opportunity that they’ve given me.”
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Bowers slid in the draft due to concerns about a knee injury and the potential impact it could have on his long-term NFL career. Some teams were said to believe that Bowers needed mircro-fracture surgery and other teams were said to think that he had a degenerative condition that would cause him to last only one contract in the NFL. The Buccaneers believe that Bowers does not need further surgery.
“The knee is fine,” said Bowers. “You know, it’s getting better every day. I’m just ready to come to Tampa, get with the rest of my teammates, and get ready to win this championship. It’s all about teammates and teamwork. I’m just ready to start building a relationship with them, with those guys.
“I haven’t talked to any doctors since my medical recheck. I haven’t been dealing with doctors since because there was no need to.”
Bowers discussed the status of his knee, and when he feels he will be ready to play football again.
“I’ll be ready to get on the field whenever they need me to,” said Bowers. “You know, whenever they say ‘Da’Quan you’re ready to hit the field’ I’m going to hit the field running. You know, it may not be in two weeks, it may not be in two months. Whenever they get me to go, I’m going.”
After notching four sacks in his first two years at Clemson, Bowers broke out with 15.5 sacks to lead the nation as junior. Bowers also had 67 tackles with 26 tackles for a loss, one interception, and one forced fumble. After the season Bowers had meniscus knee surgery that was characterized as minor. Bowers was not able to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine, and was not 100 percent healthy at his pro day when he ran a 4.84 time in the 40-yard dash. Bowers said his slide in the draft has him motivated to reward Tampa Bay and prove the skeptics wrong.
“I’m definitely motivated,” said Bowers. “I’m just ready to get to Tampa and show everybody what I’m capable of doing, and show them that they picked a great athlete and a great guy. I’m just ready to get down there and go to work.”
Bowers follows in the footsteps of former Clemson defensive end and former Buccaneer Gaines Adams. Tampa Bay selected Adams with the fourth-overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Adams was traded to Chicago partway through his third season. Adams tragically passed away in January of 2010. Adams served as a mentor to Bowers, and Bowers wore Adams number 93 jersey at Clemson.
“[Adams] and my father was the only two faces I could see when I answered that phone,” said Bowers. “You know, the two guys that helped me to be the man that I am, you know. And how ironic that him playing at Tampa and me getting drafted by Tampa just like him, coming from the same school and being so close. I would have never thought that that would happen in a million years.
“I definitely wore his number to keep up the traditions of defensive ends, and he was like a big brother to me, I thought the world of him.”
Not only did Bowers lose Adams pre-maturely, he also suffered the death of his father, Dennis, in the summer before his junior season. Bowers said his father and good friend were on his mind immediately after he received the good news from the Buccaneers.
“Well, actually, that was the first person I could think of,” said Bowers of his father. “Him, and Gaines Adams. You know, it’s ironic that when Gaines would call me, an 813 number would show up, and when I saw that number, you know, I just knew that it was Tampa Bay.”
Bowers explained how he and Adams got to be good friends.
“When I was recruited by coach Tommy Bowden, Gaines was a junior there, and he came out to camp one day when I was 14 or 15 years old, and we kind of just built the relationship from there,” said Bowers. “We exchanged numbers and everything. Then, he would always call and check up on me. He’d come pick me up and take me back to Clemson or we’d hang out or whatever. He did the things that a big brother would do.”
After falling out of the first round, Bowers was not sure with which team he would land.
“Once I got bypassed by everyone, I had no idea who I’d be drafted by,” Bowers said. “You know, my agent and I had some thoughts, but you know, it was never a solid guess. You know, we could never tell who exactly was going to pick us. But I’m just glad for the opportunity that they gave me. I’m ready to just get down there.”
Bowers is a very religious young man that also was known as a high character teammate at Clemson. Like first-round pick Adrian Clayborn, Bowers was voted a team captain. Along with third-year veteran Roy Miller, Bowers and Clayborn will team up with 2010 first and second-round picks, Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, to form a revamped defensive line. Both Bowers and Price are expected to compete for starting spots.
“It’s going to be exciting; they have great guys there in Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn who they just drafted, and myself,” Bowers said. “We are all going to combine and give them everything we got. We’re going to be the young guys that try to take their team to an NFL Championship.”
The Bamberg, South Carolina native plans on being a tenascious pass rusher for Tampa Bay.
“I think I bring a great amount of talent to the front line,” Bowers said. “I was always known as a pretty decent pass rusher, so with the help of the coaches there, I can only get better. That’s what I’m looking forward to, getting with the staff and working on my craft, and being the best pass rusher I can be.”
~ by Charlie Campbell, James Cifu, and Bob Levine
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