Editor’s Note: Above image of Tommy Bowden provided by the UMHB Athletics Department
BELTON, Texas- Tommy Bowden cannot remember a time when football was not a part of his life. For the UMHB starting quarterback, the sport has been as constant for him as Texas’ everchanging weather.
“I grew up a coach’s kid,” recalls Bowden, whose father, Brad, currently serves as an assistant coach at China Spring High School. “My earliest memories are going out to two-a-days with him as a kid. It’s a dream come true [to play college football]. I’ve always wanted to play college football and here I am doing it. It’s surreal sometimes. I sit back and think, ‘I’m doing what I’ve wanted to do my entire life’.”
From a young age, the Brownwood native was unstoppable as a quarterback, especially when he was given room to take off and run with the football. That speed and agility was part of what won him the starting job heading into this season, and has come to be expected by the Crusader faithful. He has only started one game so far, a 41-0 win over Belhaven, but showed what he could do against the Blazers, scoring four touchdowns, two of them rushing, on his way to becoming the first UMHB player to ever win a Division Player of the Week honor (until this season, the ASC did not have divisions).
One of those touchdown runs, a 38 yard sprint down the sideline, went for UMHB’s first points of the season, as the sophomore brilliantly broke five tackles. He was spun around and nearly pulled down near the right sideline, but broke away, leaving the Blazer defenders gasping for breath. On Tuesday night, that video resurfaced, with a caption “Tim Tebow is now playing D3 football in Texas”. By the time Bowden sat down to talk with the media on Wednesday morning, the video had generated 33,000 views on Twitter.
Soon after, comparisons of Bowden to Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy Winner and quarterback who led Florida to a national championship, flooded in. In fact, UMHB wide receiver DJ Weaver even dubbed his teammate, “Tommy Tebow”.
It is one of those comparisons that makes sense. Both have a tremendous passing ability, but also have the potential to cause just as much damage on the ground.
When asked about the comparison Wednesday, Bowden said with a smile, “Anytime somebody starts comparing you to a national champion and Heisman winner, I’ll take it. I grew up watching Tim Tebow, loved Tim Tebow, so I’ll take that any day of the week.”
This week presents another monumental moment in the young quarterback’s collegiate career. On Saturday, he will take the field for the first time as UMHB’s starter. Looking back to September 14, 2019, it is easy to see how far Bowden has come. In that victory over Albright College, he was a freshman standing on the sidelines, knowing he would likely not see the field as the team’s third-stringer. He did end up taking a few snaps late, though, and even then, it was evident that Bowden was a special quarterback, as he completed a 26 yard pass, and also scored a rushing touchdown. He still remembers the atmosphere of Crusader Stadium on that day, his first home game as a member of the UMHB football team.
“There was tons of energy in the stadium, a packed crowd, that’s probably the most people I’ve played in front of, so there was a lot of energy, a lot of adrenaline,” said Bowden. “It was a great memory I’ll never forget.”
Now, when you walk around campus, especially on a game week, people know who Bowden is, and it is obvious they cannot wait to watch No. 16 put on a show. For some, being in Bowden’s shoes would be an overwhelming task. But as the sophomore has gone through the past year as the team’s No. 1 signal caller, his confidence has grown, and he noted Wednesday that he feels ready to make his first home start on Saturday.
“I think there’s probably less butterflies in my stomach and I got those first game jitters out of the way,” said Bowden when asked how he has grown from the preseason until now. “I’m a little more confident, and little more collected, but I’m same guy, and I’m going to go out there and compete.
“I’m going to approach it the same way I approached Belhaven, just being ready to go, knowing what is being asked of me, and knowing what we’re trying to do. It doesn’t really change no matter where you’re playing. You just have to know what you have to do to win.”