Quarterback Alan Bowman is entering his second season at Michigan with the same mentality he has carried throughout his football career.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder has always viewed himself as an underdog and will be once again in 2022 in a deep Wolverines’ quarterback room that includes incumbent starter Cade McNamara and former five-star recruit JJ McCarthy, who many believe has a bright future in Ann Arbor.
But Bowman, who spent his first three seasons at Texas Tech, is excited about the challenge ahead. He has had fleeting moments of excellence during his career but has also been hampered by injuries.
Although Bowman has only thrown four passes in a Michigan uniform, his football journey caught the eye of Kyle Nakatsuji, the CEO of Clearcover, a Chicago-based auto insurance company.
The company launched its “Inspired Underdogs” program in 2021, sponsoring collegiate athletes with inspiring stories. Bowman recently was one of a handful of student-athletes to receive a $ 10,000 sponsorship from Clearcover, which also bills itself as an underdog in the car insurance industry.
This isn’t Bowman’s first Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) deal, but he said its is one of his most meaningful.
“There were definitely times in my life where football was hard,” Bowman told MLive in a phone interview. “I felt I lost the love for it at some point. With so many injuries – I mean, the first four years of my career, I had four different offensive coordinators. So I could never get into a rhythm, I could never feel confident in myself, I was always getting injured. I didn’t know how good I could be. I was always the, ‘Is he gonna be able to stay healthy’ guy? So yeah, there were a couple of times and doubts in my head going through, ‘Is it worth of all this going through it?’ I’m so glad that I did and I came to Michigan. It’s paid off in every way. ”
Bowman was ranked outside of the top 800 prospects coming out of high school and only had a couple of Power Five offers before choosing to attend Texas Tech.
But the Grapevine, Texas native burst onto the college scene as a freshman in 2018 after Red Raiders starter McLane Carter exited in the first quarter of the team’s season opener with an ankle injury.
Bowman threw for 2,112 yards over his first four games, leading Texas Tech to a 3-1 record and a top-25 ranking in the country. He totaled 10 touchdowns in those four games and set a Big 12 freshman single-game record with 605 passing yards in a 63-49 win over Houston.
But just as Bowman began to make a name for himself, his ascent abruptly stalled in Week 5 against West Virginia after suffering a collapsed lung.
Bowman stood in his pocket as the blitzers converged, and just as he released the ball, he was crunched by two defenders.
Fifty-five percent of Bowman’s right lung had collapsed because of the crushing hit to his chest, landing him in the hospital for five days. Bowman said he had the wind knocked out of him before, but this injury was “like that 10 times.” Once the doctors diagnosed the collapsed lung, they hooked Bowman up to a tube that drained the air, fluid and blood from his right lung.
“You just sit there until that hole closes,” Bowman said. “So you’re just on morphine for five days, waiting for that hole to close and then once the hole closes, they just grab the tube and rip it out.”
Bowman’s budding career was briefly put on hold as he healed, but he returned to the field just three weeks later ready to lead the Red Raiders’ air raid offense.
Just as Bowman’s season was taking off once again, he found himself back in the hospital with another collapsed right lung after absorbing a big hit against Oklahoma, his third game back from injury.
Although it was only collapsed 10% this time, doctors said his season was over in order to give the lung ample time to heal. Texas Tech’s record in games he started? 4-3. It finished 5-7 overall.
“It’s hard because most injuries in football, the worst ones you can think of are kind of like an ACL tear or torn Achilles tear, and you don’t have to be rushed to the hospital,” Bowman said. “It was definitely tough from (the standpoint of), at the very beginning of the season, I wasn’t starting. Then at the end of the first game, I’m the starting quarterback now. Then I break a couple of records and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is crazy.’ Then everything’s just stripped down. I’m spending nights in the hospital on morphine and I don’t even know what day it is and I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on. So the highs and lows that I’ve gone through at such a young age really kind of helped prepare me and I feel like I’ve had that underdog mentality ever since high school, and that kind of really helped me. ”
Bowman faced more hurdles the following season. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who is now with the Arizona Cardinals, was fired, and Bowman had to learn a new offense under new coach Matt Wells.
Nevertheless, Bowman led the Red Raiders to lopsided victories over Montana State and UTEP to begin 2019, but a broken collarbone in Week 3 knocked him out for the rest of the year.
The team finished 4-8 in 2019 and 4-6 in 2020. Bowman, who played in eight games in 2020 and started six, felt like it was time for a fresh start. He earned an undergraduate degree at Texas Tech in three years and transferred to Michigan as a graduate student.
The right-handed signal-caller might have only played a handful of snaps for Michigan in 2021, but he accomplished something he had never done in high school or college: win a championship. The Wolverines finished 12-2 and won their first Big Ten title since 2004.
“It’s a championship mentality on and off the field in every way possible,” he said of coming to Michigan. “Obviously, I would love to be the starting quarterback and I’d love to be playing at the University of Michigan. That’s the goal. I work as hard as I can to achieve that goal. But going from Texas Tech, all love to them, but we didn’t win a lot of games. And my high school wasn’t really good when my class came in. So I didn’t really know what a championship mentality was like and what it looks like. “Coming to Michigan, just how these guys operate and how the coaching staffs operate day in and day out from the weight room, meetings, meals, nutrition, everything that they do is just amazing. I’ve been able to gain the love of football back again through Michigan and also learn how to be a champion. ”
Bowman’s story reminds Nakatsuji of his own. He suffered a torn ACL as a sophomore in high school and then tore it up again as a senior but still went on to college ranks as a walk-on at Wisconsin and Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
“There’s something about being young and hungry that translates to business as well,” Nakatsuji wrote in a message to MLive. “When we started Clearcover, we knew we would be entering an industry dominated by powerful incumbents. We had to embrace being an underdog to be successful. That means finding ways to succeed, no matter how difficult the circumstances. It means outhustling the competition, being resilient and responding to setbacks with grit and determination.
“I think it’s really important that athletes like Alan are recognized for what they’re doing day after day.”
Bowman doesn’t know how the quarterback competition will play out in 2022, but he’s much more comfortable heading into year two at Michigan. The Wolverines’ offense is unlike any system he has played in before.
“Coming from Texas Tech, I threw the ball all over the yard,” he said. “Did that my whole life, just throwing it around the yard, air raid. I threw the ball like 56 times in one game. I didn’t take one under-center snap ever. Then I come to Michigan and we’re under center, we’re seven-step drops, we’re play action, we’re deep posts, we’re crossers, we’re checking, we’re doing a lot of things I’ve never done it before. So it was very difficult to come in in the summer and try to compete to start in six weeks. Now I feel like after I’ve been here for a year, I’m able to understand the offense now and know it really well. ”
McNamara and McCarthy are the frontrunners to start this season, but Bowman has a wealth of experience he believes can be a valuable asset in the quarterback room.
“I think it’s really tight,” Bowman said of the quarterback. “I think one thing that we do have is that we’re all a close-knit group. We know that there’s a competition and only one guy can play. But I think we all help to push each other, and I think that’s what we’re gonna do. I think only fall camp will tell to see – JJ obviously didn’t throw in spring ball (because of a shoulder injury) – but we’re excited to see what he can do and kind of see him shake it up. I can push those guys as much as I can. I think the more competition that we have, the better everybody else gets, so the better everybody else is, the better we’re all going to be. ”
Bowman is getting his master’s in supply chain management and is on track to graduate next May. He still has two years of eligibility remaining but hasn’t made any decisions about his future past this upcoming season.
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