Updated August 5, 2020 - 9:16 am
There were very few doubts about Lynn Bowden’s ability with the ball in his hands from anyone who watched him rip through defenses in Youngstown, Ohio.
Once he discovered the motivation to turn those talents into a career, his fate was sealed.
“He’s a young man who has been through a lot,” Kentucky offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Eddie Gran said Tuesday. “When he was growing up, things weren’t all perfect. He’s a young man that’s had to mature and he’s done that. A guy that’s grown and is a great father who loves his child.
“He’s got a ‘Why.’ When he had that little boy and figured out that why, things started changing. I think that’s what the Raiders are getting, a young man that loves his family, has a ‘why’ and the vehicle is football.”
Bowden is bringing his playmaking ability and his son, Lynn Bowden III, to Las Vegas where the Raiders were clear about their intention to use him as a versatile weapon on offense when they drafted him in April.
They’re wasting no time in putting that plan into practice.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson on Tuesday said Bowden has been grouped in with the running backs throughout the offseason, but has also been asked to learn the team’s quarterback concepts.
“You’ve seen the game changing from year to year, the use of RPOs, the use of the Taysom Hills and those type of players that play that RPO-style offense in college they become valuable for us,” Olson said of the Saints’ versatile backup quarterback. “And we believed that he can transition and be a running back as well as do some of those plays at the quarterback position.”
Bowden is a perfect candidate for such a role.
A high school quarterback, he played wide receiver and was named to the Southeastern Conference all-freshman team as a return specialist. Bowden had a stellar sophomore season, leading the team in all statistical receiving categories.
Then came a junior year when quarterback injuries opened the door for a return to his high school position. Bowden answered the call and led the team to a Belk Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
“The Raiders are getting one of the best competitors I’ve ever seen, with toughness in a guy who loves the game,” Gran said. “He’s just one of those special guys. I’ve been in (the SEC) a long, long time and I think he could’ve played DB, he could have played safety. He’s just that kind of athlete. But for him to go and do what he did and we asked him to do was remarkable. I think that’s the thing people really don’t understand. When he played receiver, he knew the offense better than anyone. He knew everyone’s position. He’s a very intelligent kid.”
Gran, who previously spent time at Mississippi and nearly a decade at Auburn, compares Bowden favorably to some of the best running backs he’s ever coached, including Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, Ronnie Brown, Rudi Johnson and Deuce McAllister.
But his best comparison is former Georgia quarterback Hines Ward, who became a do-everything receiver for the Steelers and was also picked in the third round.
“Lynn, with the ball in his hands, is as electric as anyone I’ve ever been around,” Gran said.
Warren G. Harding High School coach Steve Arnold knew that before Bowden transferred into his famed program as a junior. Arnold then got to see it first-hand for two seasons.
“Lynn is one of the most fierce competitors I’ve ever coached,” said Arnold, whose program has produced a slew of NFL players. “I don’t care if it’s quarterback, receiver, punt returner, kick returner, defensive back. He just makes plays at whatever position you put him at.”
Arnold even remembers a time the team needed to block a field goal, so he sent his quarterback into the game to get the job done. Bowden blocked it.
The coach closely followed Bowden’s college career and said Bowden often returns to the school to work out and mentor his players. Arnold is excited to see what Bowden does with the Raiders.
“He’s going to bring excitement,” Arnold said. “He couldn’t be in a better place. He’s going to light it up. I’m quite sure Coach (Jon) Gruden is going to find ways to get Lynn the football.”
Gran believes the Raiders coaches will love him as much as he did during his three years at Kentucky.
“I got a thousand memories of him,” laughed Gran, who has a picture in his office of himself and Bowden smiling together after the bowl game. “It wasn’t all perfect, but we ended up having a phenomenal relationship. For me, it’s just his will to win. The kid is incredible. They’re getting a team player who’s going to do whatever the coaches ask him to do. And I think his teammates will love his competitive spirit and toughness. If you’re a football player and you’ve got a guy next to you playing like that and leaving it all on the field every single down, I don’t think you can ask anything else from a teammate.”
Bowden sells merchandise with his trademarked catchphrase “Come See About It.”
He’s about to get the chance to show the NFL what that means.