Kittanning’s Nick Bowers set for happy, healthy senior year at Penn State
Penn State tight end Nick Bowers has seen the glory college football can provide, scoring a touchdown on his first career catch in 2017 against Nebraska and finding the end zone again in the Citrus Bowl against Kentucky last season.
He’s also seen the despair the game sometimes engenders, missing all but three games of his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons because of injury.
During those down times, Bowers had three things that kept him going.
“My family is a very supportive family,” Bowers said Wednesday. “My town, it’s a small town and they all supported me and kept my head up. And my teammates, we’re all really close and they helped me get through that process.”
Bowers’ father Brad, grandfather Wilbur and uncle Curt all played college football, so his family was obviously familiar with the ups and downs of the sport.
Finally healthy, his hometown of Kittanning and his Nittany Lions teammates should have plenty of chances to cheer him on this season.
“I’m pretty excited,” Bowers said. “It’s been a long road to get to this point. To finally be able to go out every single day and practice to my full capabilities is very exciting for me.”
On the surface, it’s easy to make assumptions about Penn State’s tight end situation.
Pat Freiermuth is the hotshot youngster who caught eight touchdown passes as a freshman last season. Bowers is the 6-foot-4, 260-pound fifth-year senior who does the dirty work and finds success through age and treachery.
In one sense, Bowers says that characterization isn’t accurate.
Bowers was a prolific wide receiver at Kittanning, setting school records with 94 catches, 1,628 yards and 19 touchdowns. He’s no plugger.
“I try to be a threat downfield to catch the ball and make plays,” Bowers said.
In another sense, though, Bowers considers it a compliment to suggest he does the little things well.
He’s been working on rounding out his game since he set foot on campus.
“Once you get to college, that all changes very quickly,” Bowers said. “You’re expected to block big defensive players. I think, over the years, you just kind of adapt to that role. I try to work on my craft every single day to be that guy that can be dependable in all those areas.”
He also likes being the tight end singled out for mowing down would-be tacklers on long running plays.
“Coach (James) Franklin does a good job of that in meetings, on a power point, showing guys going down field,” Bowers said. “I think that motivates us to be those guys. I know it’s not the flashy thing that fans always see, but it’s a big part of how well (running backs) do. We want to do a good job of holding our blocks as long as we can so they can be sprung loose.”
At some point in the future, Bowers likely will change his focus from delivering crushing downfield blocks to changing income tax withholding and explaining health insurance plans.
He graduated in May with a degree in labor and employment relations — essentially an HR degree — and is working toward another bachelor’s in communications.
For now, though, he’s mostly enjoying being healthy enough to appreciate the game he loves.
“When it’s taken away from you, it’s like, ‘Wow, I had something really great,’” Bowers said. “When I got back from injury, I was really appreciative. I just try to take full advantage every single day.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .