By LARRY VAUGHT
Most University of Kentucky football fans are assuming junior Lynn Bowden will be playing in the NFL next year and I even read a story Monday suggesting that Bowden would be a great pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who already have former UK stars Benny Snell and Bud Dupree.
Bowden has gone 5-2 as a starting quarterback since being switched from receiver because of injuries to three UK quarterbacks.
He is the only player in the nation leading his team in both rushing (1,235) and pass receiving (348) after running for 284 yards — most ever by a Southeastern Conference quarterback — in last week’s rout of Louisville. He ranks 13th on UK’s career receptions list with 114 and is 18th 1 on the career receiving yards list with 1,303 yards.
But his 1,235 yards rushing in seven games this year have him No. 6 on UK’s single-season rushing list. If he gets 99 yards in UK’s bowl game, he’ll have the fourth best rushing season and if he somehow gained 215 yards he would knock Snell’s 1,449 yards last year from second to third on UK’s single-season list.
Impressed? You should be. However, you likely are not as impressed with Bowden as former WLEX-TV sports director Alan Cutler is. Not only did he cover UK football for over 30 years, but he also was part of the Cincinnati Bengals Radio Network.
He thinks Bowden might be able to play QUARTERBACK in the NFL or at least thinks it is an idea worth considering based on what former Louisville Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is doing in his second season as quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens.
“I look at Lamar Jackson and how much he’s improved not only throwing the ball, but understanding defenses since he destroyed UK the first time, and he didn’t even know much about defenses or much of the playbook,” Cutler said.
“I wonder ‘if’ Lynn works on being a quarterback how much better he can be. I wonder if he stayed to play quarterback next year (at Kentucky), could he win the Heisman? I wonder, if he works with a quarterback coach (Darin Hinshaw) who is one of the best, if he can not only lead UK to the SEC Championship next year, but can he be a starting quarterback in the NFL.”
Cutler doubts if Baltimore fans realize how much Jackson has improved from the time he got to Louisville until now. Cutler speculates that Bowden could maybe improve just as much and remember he did play quarterback in high school.
“Whatever that certain something is that we call the ‘it factor,’ he has it,” Cutler said. “Every time Lynn touched the ball you had to watch because you never knew what this great jazz musician could possibly do on the football field.
“I’m not predicting any of this, but if you think about it, why wouldn’t he want to find out. You can’t teach what Lynn can already do.”
Cutler is right about that. Bowden makes the impossible look possible. He’s a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award given to the nation’s most versatile player. He currently leads the SEC and ranks ninth nationally in all-purpose yardage at 153 yards per game.
After Kentucky’s demolition of Louisville Saturday, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Jackson “was probably maybe the greatest player” he ever competed against.
“What I admire so much about him is how competitive he is,” Stoops said of Jackson. “He’s a remarkable quarterback and a remarkable talent. What I’ve always admired about him is after that year when we were fortunate and came back and won up there (in 2016), but that next year when he came down here, it was like, come on, put that team on your back and it was over. He wasn’t going to let anything happen because he was a complete Alpha dog.”
Stoops says Bowden is the same type Alpha dog that Jackson is.
“Lynn is one of the most competitive people I’ve seen. So again, don’t say I’m comparing him to Lamar and all that. Lamar is a fantastic, remarkable player, one of the best I’ve ever seen,” Stoops said. “But both in the same regard of how competitive they are and how much they want it on their back, they want to make plays and they want to — you know, they want to do it for their team.”
That “do it for their team” is why I have no doubt Bowden will play in whatever bowl game Kentucky ends up in — and I still think the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville is a real possibility.
It’s also why Cutler’s idea might seem a bit far-fetched, but when Bowden took over at quarterback who thought he could run for 1,235 yards in seven games and lead UK to five wins? Not me and probably not you.
So it’s probably best to never say never when it comes to Bowden and what he may or may not do.