PITTSBURGH — In college football recruiting, some players are recruited based on sheer physically ability, without a specific position.
Usually, by the time they finish their college career, they’ve become easily classifiable by one position. Players that are still flirting with more than one, such as Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool, are notable exceptions.
Given that, Lynn Bowden, Jr. is practically a unicorn.
Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, Bowden got his start as a high school football player as a running back. He came out of Warren G. Harding high school as the kind of unclassifiable athlete that many college seek.
But despite interest from the Big Ten’s best like Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and Wisconsin, Bowden went to Kentucky to play for fellow Youngstown native Mark Stoops.
At Kentucky, the offense was based on the ground game, with Benny Snell leading the way until his graduation after the 2018 season. Bowden developed into a quality wide receiver, making 67 caches for 745 yards as a sophomore in 2018.
But an injury to quarterback Terry Wilson at the start of the 2019 season threatened that balance.
Instead of being one of Kentucky’s top targets, Bowden became the top passer, assuming quarterbacking duties to fill in for Wilson and leading Kentucky to an 8-5 season. He wasn’t necessarily a polished passer, completing 35 of 74 (47.3%) for 403 yards and as many touchdowns (three) as interceptions.
But he made plays when the offense needed him to, including a game-winning touchdown pass in the Belk Bowl that Bowden called his favorite collegiate memory.
233 rushing yards ✅
Game-winning TD pass ✅
Lynn Bowden can do it all 😤 pic.twitter.com/LqY6cqM8vu
— ESPN (@espn) December 31, 2019
The move to quarterback deprived Bowden of a season of experience at the receiver position, but he doesn’t think it has hurt his draft stock.
“I thought about it,” he said. “I felt like it could only help me.”
He said that the response so far when he’s talked to NFL teams has been positive.
“They liked it,” he said. “They appreciate that I was a team player first and that I can keep up.”
His message to the NFL about where to play him? Whatever, wherever.
“I can play wherever you want to play me,” Bowden said, adding that NFL teams have asked him to line up all over the field.
Part of what he feels he’s added to his value by playing quarterback is the knowledge of all 11 positions on the offense. It’s easier to envision a do-it-all playmaker if he also knows it all.
“It showed I have a high IQ, playing quarterback in the SEC,” Bowden said. “It’s the NFL and then it’s the SEC. I played in the best league. You gotta be ready.”
The other part of that equation will be putting down the kind of athletic performance in timing that proves he is a do-it-all athlete. But he won’t get that opportunity this week. Bolden is not participating in the physical portions of the combine thanks to a hamstring strain. He plans on working out at Kentucky’s pro day on March 27.
Before the combine, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. said Bowden would be a good get in the third round before the combine. If he runs a quality time at Kentucky, that could improve. Either way, it’ll be a pretty minor blip in a fascinating journey.
“From my first snap as a running back in high school to my last snap as a quarterback in college, it’s just something crazy,” Bowden said. “I knew I had it in me to get here, but I never expected it to be like this.”