RENTON, Wash. – The story of how rookie Michael Bowie came to start at left guard for Seattle against the Saints last Saturday is not only one of personal redemption but also a peek into the culture of the Seahawks and the vagaries of the NFL draft.
It starts with an announcement on Aug. 1, 2012, from Oklahoma State that Bowie, who had started five games the previous season at left tackle while also emerging as an intriguing NFL prospect, had been kicked off the team for violating team rules. He finished his collegiate career at Division II Northeastern State in Tahlequah, Okla.
It continues with a rather mundane NFL news release March 18 detailing the compensatory picks granted to each team for losing free agents the year before.
Seattle got two – pick Nos. 241 and 242 in the seventh round – after the NFL determined it suffered a net loss in free agency the year before for losing quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, safety Atari Bigby, tight end John Carlson and linebacker David Hawthorne while signing quarterback Matt Flynn and defensive lineman Jason Jones.
The two compensatory picks gave Seattle four in the seventh round.
And with the 242nd pick, the Seahawks’ last of the draft, they chose Bowie.
No one doubted the physical gifts of the 6-foot-4, 332-pounder.
NFL teams did look at his college résumé and raise an eyebrow.
“Once you check him out and know that he’s a good kid, you’ve just got to kind of refine him is the best way to say it, and develop him,” Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable said. “And that’s what we do here.”
Bowie stood out from the start of his Seahawks career, with only a shoulder injury suffered in the exhibition season slowing his progress.
When Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini were each sidelined with injuries by the third game of the season, Bowie was thrust into a starting role at right tackle, staying there for the next seven games.
When Okung and Giacomini returned, Bowie reverted to inactive status on game days, largely because he had played solely on the right side (fellow rookie Alvin Bailey was used as a backup due to his versatility).
When J.R. Sweezy missed the Arizona game with a concussion, though, Cable decided to give Bowie a shot at right guard, a position he’d never played in a game.
The Seahawks lost, but Cable liked what he saw. And when the Seahawks earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs, he decided to give Bowie another shot, this time at earning the left guard spot, where Seattle all season had rotated James Carpenter and Paul McQuistan.
And while there might be some in the NFL who would consider it risky to shake up the offensive line heading into the playoffs, Cable didn’t. He said it fit right into the team’s “Always Compete” mantra. “We are all about trying to put the best guys out there from week to week,” Cable said.
Bowie said he had no idea during the bye week practices that he was essentially auditioning for a starting spot.
“I just thought I was going out there practicing,” he said. “Surprised me.”
The Monday before the divisional playoff game against the Saints, though, Bowie got the word he’d be starting at left guard. He played every snap of Seattle’s 23-15 win.
Given the same Seattle willingness to shake things up that earned Bowie a start last week, Bowie knows his spot is far from cemented. He noted this week he didn’t play in either 49ers game and no one would be surprised if Seattle again altered the lineup based on the matchup.
If Bowie has proved anything this season, though, it’s that the player with the vagabond college past suddenly appears to have a longterm NFL future.
“You always have to have confidence in yourself,” he said. “So even when I did slip (in the draft), I knew I had the ability. I just had to be in the right system, the right group of guys around me like the ones I have here.”