Photo courtesy: Dominick Gravel/Montreal Alouettes
The addition of former Montreal Alouettes’ great defensive end John Bowman will provide 14 plus years of football experience to the Lions’ young defensive line unit.
Bowman took a step back after his final season with Montreal in 2019 and after a short period of reflecting and involvement with the CFL Players Association, he is ready to pass on the torch to younger players in the Den.
“I’m just going to do my best, be relatable and simple to not make this game bigger than what it is,” said Bowman on Monday during the Lions’ virtual availability.
Bowman, the Alouettes all-time leader in quarterback sacks (134), was a two-time CFL All-Star and nine-time East Division All-Star throughout his playing career. He also helped the Alouettes win two Grey Cups in 2009 and 2010.
From a guy who produced a lot of defensive stops during his playing days, Bowman doesn’t want his players to solely play for stats: sacks in particular.
“I was taught not to coach for stats. I don’t care about sacks because I don’t control the sack. The only thing I can do is do my work. Like get my hand over, do my chop, do my spin move, do my rush and if the quarterback still has the ball, then I’m lucky,” Bowman said.
“I’ve had great rushes, but the quarterback throws the ball away. That’s not a sack but I won my rep. I’ve had great rushes, sack the quarterback, but pass interference on the DB, is that my fault? The only thing you can do is work. If you worry about getting sacks, hitting the quarterbacks, and getting your bonuses, you’re going to stink.”
It was a mistake Bowman had made earlier in his career. He recalled his second season with the Alouettes back in 2007 when he recorded seven sacks through week 15, he thought if he registers three more sacks then he’ll be rewarded with a pay bonus. He finished the season with only that same total of seven sacks.
“You win your rep, play every down firmly and play relentlessly. That’s when you get statistics. That’s going to sound weird coming from a guy who can pass rush. But you just win your rep and if the quarterback has the ball, you’re there,” he added.
The Brooklyn, New York native said coaching had been resurfacing to him during the last stretch of his playing career. As a veteran, he naturally became more vocal to help teammates out with their technique.
“I want to say back in 2014, 2015, I thought about it. 2016, it really hit me,” he recalled.
And while growing up, Bowman would look for role models to lean on. Now he’s able to impact people on and off the field.
“My background growing up was tough. Fortunately enough for me, I got into boxing. I met guys like Mike Tyson, Mark Breland. I told myself, ‘If I ever get in a situation where I can help my community or be somebody to lean on, I’m going to do it.’”
Bowman also acknowledges the young defensive line unit from 2021 has plenty of room for improvement. To him, it all comes down to experience. He’ll be more of a hands-on learning type of coach.
“My rookie year I had two sacks. So, if I wasn’t given an opportunity to get better to grow, I wouldn’t have 134. It’s about gaining experience, getting opportunities to get better, and enhancing your skills,” he said.
“I don’t know what these guys have been taught. Because until you know what somebody has been taught, maybe they’re doing it the right way. So, you get in there, tell them what I know, what worked for me and hopefully, it works for them.”
Before joining the Alouettes and beginning his journey in the CFL, Bowman spent 2005 in the National Indoor Football League. For him, it may seem like ages ago because the 39-year-old was once in those seats as a rookie.
“When you’re young, you don’t know much. You just go out there and run wild. But the more you learn at a younger age, the better you become as you get seasons in,” he said.
“That’s why as a player, I didn’t drastically fall off because when I was young in 2008, Mike Sinclair came in. He taught us how to become not just football players, but pass rushers, how to master our skills, what to look for, what we can omit from things. So you take that information, process it and make it yours.”
Michael Sinclair, the former three-time NFL Pro Bowler who joined the Montreal coaching staff from 2008-2012 is a great mentor of Bowman, alongside a former teammate, Anwar Stewart who is currently the defensive line coach for the University of Kentucky. Bowman also talked about using ‘Trestisms’ in his new role with the Lions, clearly a tribute to his former head coach in Montreal, Marc Trestman.
Now it’s a new chapter for the Lions’ new defensive line coach in 2022 as he aims to bring the best out of the club’s defensive line. At the same time, Bowman will learn from head coach Rick Campbell and defensive coordinator Ryan Phillips.
“I’m excited to work with the group. I’m going to be learning from all the other coaches. I don’t want to single anybody out. I just want them [players] to know that every one of them is going to get the best I got. They’re going to each be treated equally and fairly. The more I can put my knowledge into them, I think the better they’ll become,” he said.