By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
On a day when it didn’t seem like the Cats had enough to get over the hump it took Lynn Bowden pulling a new trick out of his bottomless bag of tricks to conjure up a 37-30 victory against Virginia Tech in the 2019 Belk Bowl.
Bowden ran all over the vaunted Bud Foster-led Tech defense to the tune of 233 yards and two touchdowns. Both of his touchdown runs were vintage Lynn Bowden but his second one was magical as on a third down and eight play he somehow broke free from a mass of players near midfield, cut down the sideline and then cut back again near the 15-yard line to cruise into the end zone with a 61-yard touchdown run.
What could be considered a once in a career touchdown run for most players has come to be common place for Lynn Bowden. Like a magician that makes things appear where there was only thin air before, Lynn Bowden seems to create plays out of nothing. In both of Bowden’s touchdown runs he found a seam in the defense where one had not previously existed, accelerated into that opening and then, like a child trying to squeeze jello, he would slip and slide between tacklers as he continued to accelerate into the end zone.
But of course, by now, every UK fan knows that No. 1 at quarterback can carry the football like no other runner they have ever seen at UK. But, like Achilles in Greek mythology, Bowden was supposed to have a weakness that could not be overcome. The book on Bowden was that, as a quarterback, he couldn’t throw the ball. Sure, he could throw a short 5-yard out pattern some of the time or maybe a dump off to the tight end over the middle but generally if he had to throw a ball with distance and touch it was thought to be just as likely intercepted as caught by his receiver. At least until the Belk Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
With just a few seconds left on the game clock Bowden reached into that bag of tricks that every good magician carries, he audibled out of a jump ball type pass into the end zone and audibled into a post route to Josh Ali. So, with the Belk Bowl Championship on the line and millions of Big Blue Fans around the world holding their respective breaths, Bowden calmly waited behind his offensive line as they fended off would-be tacklers and almost in slow motion casually tossed a perfect spiral to Josh Ali who had beaten his man on the post route. Josh Ali squeezed the football as he ran through the back of the end zone and then continued on into the crowd of UK celebrants in the stands above the end zone.
After that it was a matter of Matt Ruffolo kicking the critical extra point and then the celebration started in earnest. Just to ice the cake, Kentucky linebacker Jordan Wright picked up a fumble by Virginia Tech quarterback Henson Hooker after several Hokie laterals and with no time left on the game clock ran it into the end zone for a “scoop and score” to end the game and make the final score 37-30.
From that moment on Lynn Bowden’s career was over at the University of Kentucky. He had accomplished everything he had come to do. He had proven to be the most versatile player in college football via his Paul Hornung award win, he had become the best running quarterback the SEC has ever seen in a single season, he had started his football journey as a misunderstood boy from Youngstown, Ohio and grown into a man and become a leader of men, and last but not least he had become a father. A father who is now trying to create a better world for his son than the one he grew up in, just as all good fathers try to do.
So, in 2020, as we say goodbye to probably the best football player to ever wear the blue and white at The University of Kentucky remember that, even with all the accolades he won off the field and all the accomplishments he achieved on the field, Lynn Bowden Jr.’s biggest career lies ahead. He will have to really dig deep into his bag of tricks every day to make sure he instills within his own son that heart of a lion that will be necessary for him to make it in the world we live in today.
And as important as it is to win football games and potentially even championships like the Belk Bowl no accomplishment will outweigh the pride Lynn Bowden Jr feels when he sees his son become a better man than he is. Every one of us who is a parent can attest to that. And that is a goal well worth shooting for in this next decade of the 2020s.
Here’s hoping in the years to come that Lynn Bowden and his family reach all their dreams, just as surely as we, as UK Football fans, have watched him achieve some of ours.