PARKERSBURG -All Terry Bowden had to do when he was attending Morgantown High School was look in the mirror to know he wasn't going to be a star college football player or have a career in the National Football League.
But that didn't stop him from maximizing his potential and being the best he can be.
That's the message the University of Akron head football coach and member of college football's most famous family delivered to members of the Parkersburg High School football team on Wednesday in the Big Reds' Hall of Fame room.
Photo by Dave Poe
Akron head coach Terry Bowden speaks to the members of the Parkersburg High School football team on Wednesday afternoon in the Big Reds Hall of Fame Room.
Bowden talked about being 5-foot-5. In high school, he was a first team all-state football player and a state runner-up in wrestling.
But big-time college football seemed out of the question. So Bowden walked on at West Virginia University, where he was the left guard on the kickoff return team.
Bowden remembers the Mountaineers traveling to Oklahoma for the season-opener to play the defending national champion Sooners. In the hotel room the night before the game, he lay awake thinking about his job. Thinking about being out on the field. About an Oklahoma defender running at him. About Bowden making the perfect block to spring kickoff returner Fulton Walker loose for a touchdown.
Sure enough, West Virginia receives the opening kickoff. Bowden sees a 6-foot-4 Oklahoma player coming his way but the Sooner doesn't see him. Bowden puts on a crunching block and down goes the Sooner. Then, Bowden looks around to see when Walker is going to come whizzing past on his way to paydirt only to discover Walker was tackled back at the 11-yard line.
"That happened,'' he told the Big Reds, "because not everybody did their job.''
Bowden reminded most of the players in the room they weren't going to be the superstar or the team captain. But no matter what task they were performing, if they didn't do their job, the play and ultimately the team - would fail.
It's called accountability, and it's a word never far from coming out of Bowden's mouth.
Bowden, an upbeat guy with a big personality, genuinely enjoyed his time walking around the Big Reds Hall of Fame room. He recognized pictures of several old friends and old rivals, pointing them out to those following him around.
Bowden reminded the young men in the room of the football greats that have come out of West Virginia. Like Bowden, Rich Rodriguez got his start coaching at Salem College. Bowden's first recruit at Salem was a quarterback out of Clarksburg named Jimbo Fisher, who just coached Florida State to the national championship, which previously had belonged to Alabama, coached by West Virginia native Nick Saban.
"You've got to start thinking what you want to be,'' Bowden said. "Most of the great football players were relentless on the field. You must have the grades. The worst thing a coach has to do is tell a parent I would love for your son to play for me, but he doesn't have the grades. You must be the best in the classroom. And you must have character. You must realize you represent PHS all the time. You must take responsibility for yourself.''
Bowden said it is those traits - ability, determination, academics and character -that he looks for when deciding who to recruit.
Bowden already has made one Big Red a member of his Akron program as first-team all-state punter Kyle Foster is headed there this fall. He's aware of several seniors to be that might become future Zips.
But that isn't up to Bowden. It's up to them.
That was his message Wednesday when the little man made a big impression.