Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Monday, September 2, 2013

By Sammy Batten

Athleticism speaks loudly for quiet Bowden

Three-sport star leverages size, speed,
agility to excel at defensive end

By Sammy Batten
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Aldine Payne remembers well the day that altered the football career of Yiannis Bowden for the better.

Payne was the new varsity football coach at Robert B. Glenn High School in Kernersville when he noticed a tall, gangly sophomore wide receiver playing for the junior varsity squad. The player was Bowden, and Payne immediately turned to his assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at the time, Todd Shuping.

"I would say it was the first or second game,'' Payne said. "I turned to Todd Shuping and said, 'If we move that kid to defensive end he will be a Division I player.' So we asked Yiannis if he wanted to move. He played the next two or three games at defensive end, and had five sacks in one of them. After that one, I walked up to the JV coach and said, 'That's the last time you'll have him.' ''

Payne's initial evaluation of Bowden has come true. After finishing out his sophomore year on the varsity, he enjoyed a breakout season in 2012 when he made 70 tackles and 17 quarterback sacks to earn first-team All-Central Piedmont 4-A Conference honors.

East Carolina was one of the first schools to take notice of Bowden's emergence and reaped the benefits of that interest when the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder made a verbal commitment to the Pirates over scholarship offers from Ball State, N.C. A&T and Old Dominion. Bowden, who received an offer from ECU in July, was recruited by the Pirates defensive coordinator, Rick Smith. He made his pledge after taking a trip to Greenville two weekends ago for an unofficial visit.

"I think a lot of it (Bowden's decision) was that he was impressed with Coach Smith when he met him, and a lot of it was one of our coaches knowing (head) Coach (Ruffin) McNeill,'' Payne said.

Brent David, an assistant at Glenn, just happens to be a former Appalachian State linebacker who you guessed it was coached by ECU's McNeill, who was then defensive coordinator for the Mountaineers. David played alongside All-American and future NFL linebacker Dexter Coakley while at Appalachian State.

Other connections between Payne and the Glenn program made Bowden feel more comfortable. In a previous stint at Glenn as defensive coordinator, Payne coached former ECU linebacker Quentin Cotton and more recently tutored current Pirate cornerback Josh Hawkins, who came to Greenville as a walk-on. Another person who also gave a strong recommendation for the Pirates and their director of strength and conditioning, Jeff Connors, was Glenn offensive line coach Cam Holland. Holland is a former center at North Carolina, where Connors worked 10 seasons with the Tar Heels.

Bowden, who has been timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash, didn't begin playing organized sports until the eighth grade. His father, a professional musician, brought him to sign up for middle school football after Bowden expressed an interest in playing.

"He (father) didn't think he'd stick with it,'' Payne said. "But Yiannis wanted to give it a try. I guess you could say he took to it pretty well.''

Bowden, who doesn't turn 17 until September, is used primarily as a defensive end in Glenn's 4-3 defensive alignment, but he also stands up as an outside linebacker during those occasions when the Bobcats switch to the 3-4. The Pirates have recruited him to play defensive end or outside linebacker, according to Payne.

Two plays Bowden made in a game against High Point Central last year are a great example of his skills, Payne said.

"On the first play, they tried to block him with a tackle,'' Payne said. "He speed rushes and sacks the quarterback. On the very next play, they send a back to block him. He just runs over the back and sacks the quarterback. He went from speed one time and then used his length and strength on the second play to push the back off.''

Because of his speed and agility, Payne plans to use Bowden at tight end on offense some this season.

"Once the conference season starts we'll use him there in the red zone,'' Payne said. "He's so tall, we want to throw it to him. He's such an athlete he could really play just about anywhere. But when you're close to 6-5 and run like a deer well, he's just beautiful when he runs. He has these long strides that you just have to see to appreciate.''

Football isn't Bowden's only sport at Glenn. He's also the starting center for the basketball team and runs the hurdles and relays for the track and field squad. Bowden won the conference championship in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles as a junior and was an all-conference pick in football, basketball and track.

"He is such a gifted athlete,'' Payne said. "It is unusual for us to see a kid like him. But the best part is he's such a good and humble kid. He's very quiet and always has a smile on his face. He's very competitive, but doesn't display much ego. It's not all about Yiannis. It's about getting better for him.''

Glenn kicked off its 2013 season with a 36-0 victory against Winston-Salem Parkland. Bowden played sparingly in the game after suffering a hip pointer injury, but isn't expected to miss any time.

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09/02/2013 05:08 AM