Linebacker Navorro Bowman, the team’s third round pick (the 91st selection overall) out of Penn State, however did not.
That didn't mean, however, that the 49ers in general and coach Mike Singletary specifically weren't familiar with him. “He was one of the guys we really set a personal interview with at the [scouting] combine and sat down and talked with him and really worked our way through that,” Singletary explained. “After the interview I felt good about the possibilities of taking him, so I'm sure he has worked through some of his issues and has matured.”
The issues to which Singletary alluded include Bowman being suspended for two games for helping a teammate beat up a man at a party. He was also placed on an extra year of probation for not having done any of the 100 hours of court-ordered community service he was given and has gotten in trouble for smoking marijuana in the past as well. He didn’t have as many red flags as China, but…
“I had to do what I had to do when it comes to the character issue,” Bowman told the media during his introductory conference call. “I know what type of a person I am. I’ve had so many teammates that loved playing with me and loved me being a part of their team. I’m glad that the 49ers see that I’m a good guy and I bring a positive attitude and a great athlete and linebacker to their program.”
There’s no doubt that Bowman can play. As a redshirt junior he finished second at “Linebacker U.” with 93 tackles (52 solos), third in the Big Ten with 17 tackles for a loss, and had three sacks and two interceptions. He even scored twice, once on a fumble return versus Eastern Illinois and once on a pick six versus Indiana. Bowman was selected as a second-team All-American by The NFL Draft Report, The Sporting News, CBS Sports, Rivals.com and Sports Illustrated; and third-team honors from the Associated Press and College Football News. He was also named All-Big Ten for the second straight year.
“When you look at this kid on film, a lot of things jump out at you,” Singletary emphasized. “He’s always going to the football. He uses his hands very well, does not spend a lot of time getting locked on the lineman and tussling with those guys. He’s a playmaker and I’m very excited to get him where we did.”
Even though Bowman was primarily a “Will” or weak-side linebacker in Penn State’s 4-3 defense, the 49ers see him moving inside in their 3-4. “I just talked to him and asked him how much he weighed and he said ‘240,’ so he could play ‘Ted’ or ‘Mike’ at that weight,” Singletary said, naming the two inside linebacker spots in San Francisco’s defense. “Right now he's going to add depth. At the beginning he's going to help out on special teams and work his tail off to learn the defense and some of the things we do.”
Still, the question remains, how can anyone be sure that Bowman will be stable enough off the field to contribute on it as a pro? Singletary insisted that there’s more to his newest linebacker than a rap sheet. Not that it’s an excuse, but Bowman did have to deal with losing both parents in a short time span while also being the father of an infant son. If he’s such a bad, irresponsible character, then how come he graduated with a degree in Crime, Law and Justice last December?
“Most of the guys that you interview that are coming out of college have some kind of issue,” Singletary explained. “We do a lot of homework, the scouts do a great job of finding out a lot of information beforehand, and if we are interested in a guy as a football player, we want to interview him. If something has come up here and there, we find out and we question the kid about it and a lot of times you can tell whether the kid is still doing those things or if he’s put those things behind him and moved forward.”
For his part Bowman was excited getting a chance to play with Patrick Willis and revealed that he’d been working out in Florida with Vernon Davis and Frank Gore to prepare for his first season. He’s also close with Michael Robinson, a fellow Nittany Lion. Mostly though, he’s looking forward to being coached by Singletary.
“I know that he’s a coach that really instills dedication, hard work and discipline,” Bowman said. “I’ve come from high school all the way to college and now this point. I’m able to get coached that way and I’m glad to have a coach like that at this level. A lot goes on and you lose that type of coaching. I’m glad to have this type of opportunity to play for Coach Singletary.”
The two men, young and old, have met just once, and then only for fifteen minutes. They both have being a linebacker in common, even though one’s a Hall-of-Famer who’s been retired for 18 seasons and the other is just starting his career.
“It’s a very interesting time,” Singletary observed. “It’s only 15 minutes, but it’s amazing what you can find out in 15 minutes.”