Bill Hass on the ACC: Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers Provides Many Reasons to Smile
Oct. 23, 2009
By Bill Hass
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – Da’Quan Bowers likes to make people smile.
When he plays a home football game at Clemson, he loves the roar of the sellout crowd when he makes a big play, often a sack of the opposing quarterback.
When he plays his guitar as a member of a gospel band, he enjoys the reaction from the audience.
“I like seeing the smiles on people’s faces when I get the opportunity to play in front of a crowd and make them happy,” Bowers explained.
Football and music are the two biggest passions in the life of the 19-year-old sophomore. Football takes precedence, naturally, during the season. But if the Tigers play a home game on Saturday and he can join The Legendary Singing Stars for a Sunday gig in a church or auditorium, he does it.
“I’ve been traveling with them the last few years,” he said. “Every chance I get I’m off with those guys.”
Bowers has attracted a following in both music and football, but it’s the latter that is gaining the most attention at the moment. The defensive end is making a significant impact for the Tigers, who are back in the thick of the race in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Through six games, Bowers has been credited with 34 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three sacks and seven quarterback pressures.
Bowers was rated one of the top prospects in the country (No. 1 by ESPN.com) out of Bamberg-Ehrhart High School in South Carolina. He was able to free-lance a lot as a prep player, but at Clemson he had to fit into a defensive system. He had a lot to learn as a freshman.
“He’s really matured as a player,” said head coach Dabo Swinney. “As a freshman last year he showed some flashes and really started in our bowl game turning the corner as far as becoming a little bit more of a disciplined player within the system.”
Bowers said his adjustment to college football was more mental than physical as he learned the intricacies of holding his position to contain outside plays, stopping the run and rushing the passer.
“I had matured physically before I got here but my mind wasn’t exactly where it needed to be,” he said. “So it took me a little longer to get mentally focused. Once I got that I had a pretty good end to my freshman year and I’ve tried to bring that over to this year.
“I had to learn that I don’t have to make every play. Last year I was trying to make every play, trying to get my stats. But this year I’m just trying to do my job and depending on my teammates to get the job done if I can’t make a play. And it’s working to my advantage.”
Two people who helped Bowers make the adjustment were defensive ends coach Chris Rumph and linebacker Ricky Sapp, who is Bowers’ first cousin.
“Coach Rumph has taught me a great deal,” Bowers said. “When I came here I didn’t really know much about the game and he shared everything he knew.
“Ricky has been a mentor, he’s been there every step of the way, in my ear giving me a great deal of (advice) about doing what I needed to do.”
There’s a good competition between Bowers and Sapp, who are tied for the team lead in tackles for loss and sacks. They’re the leaders of a defense that shook off a slow start and snuffed a potent Wake Forest offense in a 38-3 shellacking last week.
That win, coming off a bye week, pushed the Tigers to 2-2 in the ACC and 3-3 overall.
“I think we basically had to get back on track, make a statement that we were better than what we were playing and get back in the run for the ACC championship,” Bowers said. “I wanted to give a great effort and help my team out any way I could. I was able to make a few good plays to get the momentum swinging our way.”
He posted three tackles for loss against Wake, leaving an impression on Deacon coach Jim Grobe.
“What a great player,” Grobe said. “He’s big and physical and has good foot speed, he’s very aggressive, very athletic. We didn’t handle him very well. Of course, we didn’t handle a lot of their players very well, but he was certainly a force.
“I think what helps him is the rest of the defense is really talented. So it’s not like you can put a couple guys on him and help with the fullback or help with the guard or the tackle. There’s just really no easy way because they’ve got so much talent defensively that you can’t isolate one guy.”
Miami coach Randy Shannon, whose Hurricanes host the Tigers Saturday, said his offense could not afford to set its game plan to stop Bowers.
“It’s not just him, their whole defense is athletic,” Shannon said. “You can’t just hone in to one guy. They do a great job up front rushing the passer, they do a great job of stopping the run. You can’t concentrate on him because it will let other guys get loose on you.”
At 6-4, 280 pounds, Bowers possesses the combination of skills and plays with the kind of effort that coaches dream about.
“His size and speed and power,” Swinney said in listing Bowers’ attributes. “That’s what this game is all about. There’re very few guys that God made like Da’Quan Bowers. He can change direction like a wideout, he’s fast, very strong, and those are some rare qualities. And then you throw in the fact that he’s smart on top of it, it makes him a complete package.”
When it comes to music, Bowers is developing into a complete package, too. His father, Dennis Bowers, became a member of the Legendary Singing Stars more than 30 years ago. The group, founded in the 1950s by Tommy Ellison, traveled extensively around the country and some overseas. Dennis Bowers played lead guitar.
After Ellison died in January, Dennis Bowers took over as the lead singer. Da’Quan Bowers, who began playing when he was 4 years old, had progressed enough that he sounded a lot like his father, so it was only natural that he take over on lead guitar. He sings backup vocals as well.
Asked for a self-evaluation of himself on the guitar, Da’Quan Bowers said “I’m OK, I’m pretty decent.” He said he tries to keep a low profile about his football background when he plays, but with his size he stands out from the other group members. Some people in the audience know who he is and his father introduces him during a set.
(If you want to check him out, there are several videos of the Legendary Singing Stars on YouTube. Two that feature Bowers are “Anyhow” and “Holy Ghost.”)
Bowers can see himself continuing to perform with the group in the years ahead. Of course, he also would like to get into coaching and there’s the probability of a pro football career. He said he’ll sort it all out when the time comes.
For now, the foremost thing on his mind is beating 8th-ranked Miami. It’s no time to rest on past laurels.
“We have to focus on Miami and go down there and play a full game like we did against Wake Forest,” Bowers said. “I think we’ve elevated our game a great deal but we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to get better each and every week, and we can’t afford to have a bad week of practice or it will show on Saturday.”
Bowers said the Hurricanes have three good running backs and the Tigers’ first task is to take the running game away and force them to the air. Jacory Harris has been an outstanding passer for Miami so far, but Bowers is eager to put some pressure on him.
“I’m going to introduce myself to him real quick,” Bowers said.
And that would, indeed, be sweet music for Clemson.
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March, 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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