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Bowden proving haters are wrong

Sometimes it can be frustrating when you’re really good at something.

I’m talking REALLY good, like there might be one or two people better than you, but you’d have to fly across the world and ride a camel 250 miles into the desert to find them.

When someone is Egyptian-desert good, it can irritate people to the point that others start searching for anything negative they can find. Often times, they create some fabricated reasoning or fictitious stereotype simply to dislike them. It’s a sad path, but it’s one we’ve all probably taken once or twice (think Derek Jeter/New York Yankees or Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls).

Many of us watched Lynn Bowden play football better than pretty much everyone else in Ohio back in his high school days. Whether it was when he burst onto the scene as a freshman and sophomore at Liberty High School, or after he transferred to Warren G. Harding as a junior and senior, Bowden was unstoppable and simply spectacular to watch (that 108-yard botched punt against Ursuline is legendary).

He could play running back, quarterback, wide receiver or punt/kick returner (he was an above-average punter, too), and he’d be the best player on the field at that position. His quickness in and out of cuts was unprecedented, and he had this innate ability to see holes and lanes milliseconds before they opened. His football IQ was off the charts, and he was tough, hardnosed and a team-oriented player. That didn’t change when he played at Kentucky.

And because he could do all that, a lot of people were constantly seeking a negative narrative about him. In other words, Bowden had plenty of “haters.”

I’ve heard members of the local media and countless fans talk negatively about Bowden or assume he was a certain way, and it always frustrated me. I got to know Bowden as a freshman and sophomore at Liberty (I was an assistant coach), and while he may have been a little brash, he was never rude or disrespectful to coaches or teammates. He worked hard — and competed harder than anyone.

The fact is, Bowden was the best player on the field in high school, and his style was flashy, so he attracted “haters.” As a person, Bowden is unassuming and respectful. As an athlete, he’s ruthless. His competitiveness is unreal. Like so many great athletes, he hates to lose more than he loves to win.

Some people had (or have) the wrong idea. They see tattoos, jewelry and a player who always has the ball in his hands, and they think he’s a ball-hogging young punk from the wrong side of town. In fact, Bowden is from a tough neighborhood, and he rose from that negative atmosphere to create a better life for himself and his family.

He never deserved a negative rap, and it’s time people stop viewing him in a negative light. His next chance to prove the haters wrong is in Las Vegas with the Raiders, the team that drafted him in the third round, 80th overall, in the NFL Draft on Friday. If his competitive nature stays the same, he should continue to dazzle as a player.

And yes, sometimes Bowden’s inner fire gets the best of him. The former Kentucky star took a swing at a Virginia Tech player before the Belk Bowl last season. It was obviously a poor decision, but if you want to know who Lynn Bowden is, don’t stop there.

He became a father as a senior in high school. That could be traumatizing for some young adults. A negative outlook could derail the future of everyone involved. Bowden, who grew up without a father in his life, didn’t take that approach.

His son, Lynn III, and his girlfriend, Mickayla, stayed in Lexington, Kentucky, during most of Bowden’s three years as a student-athlete, as did his mom, sister and brother. Juggling school, football and a family, Bowden thrived on the field and took most of college football by storm as a junior in 2019, winning the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile Division I player in the country.

That’s a lot of fame for a kid in his early 20s. It easily could have gone to his head and led to a Johnny Manziel-like lifestyle. Bowden’s priorities were different.

“I did what I had to do, and I came straight home,” said Bowden in a recent phone interview. “I was a family man. I didn’t spend much time partying and doing any of that. I just came straight home to my family.

“I used to party, just trying to be young, and once I had (my son), it was just a life-changing thing for me.”

Add maturity to his list of attributes.

And there will be more maturation for Bowden as he embarks on the next journey in his life. As it unfolds, I hope he looks to the same values that got him here, and I hope more people give the kid a chance to show them who he is — and not what they think he is.

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