The childhood dream of Brownwood Lions senior quarterback Tommy Bowden became a reality Friday afternoon, as he signed a letter of intent to play football at NCAA Division III national champion Mary Hardin-Baylor.

In two seasons with the Lions, Bowden earned District 5-4A Division I Offensive MVP honors as a senior and was named first-team all-District 3-4A Division I following his junior campaign.

“This is something I've dreamed of since I was little kid, being able to play college football,” Bowden said. “To finally be here and be signing today, it's a dream come true and I couldn't be any happier.”

Bowden chose to attend UMHB over Howard Payne, Hardin-Simmons and East Texas Baptist.

“Mary Hardin-Baylor felt like home to me,” Bowden said. “Their coaching staff really recruited me hard and I really enjoyed getting to know those guys. At the end of the day it came down to what I enjoyed best and what felt like home.”

Brownwood head coach Sammy Burnett said of Bowden, “His hard work, ethics and character have paid off for him. Mary Hardin-Baylor fits him well, it's an outstanding program that affords him an opportunity to win a national championship. They're real high on him. He may not have the measurables to go Division I but he has the heart and the athletic ability. I think he'll be a standout for them as well.”

During his senior season, Bowden completed 154 of 278 passes for 2,234 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions. On the ground, he contributed a team-high 761 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. As a junior, Bowden connected on 143 of 228 passes for 2,194 yards with 26 touchdowns and one interception while rushing for 548 yards and nine scores.

“It was a true blessing to be able to coach him and be part of that year with him,” said Burnett, who arrived prior to Bowden's senior campaign. “The leadership he brought is what helped us win football games. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have had an opportunity to be able to do that. He's a high character kid, exactly what you want in your program if you're a Brownwood Lion. The example he set for others is immeasurable.”

Mary Hardin-Baylor won its second national championship in three seasons this past December, knocking off Mount Union, 24-16, in its fourth trip overall to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. Since the start of this decade, UMHB owns a 116-8 overall record, and has also captured at least a share of 14 consecutive American Southwest Conference championships dating to 2005.

“They've played for the national championship three years in a row and won it twice, so I'm really looking forward to hopefully continuing that legacy,” Bowden said. “It's going to be tough, they have tons of talent there and they expect a lot coming off a national championship. I know I'm going to have to go in and work hard and compete, but that's something that appeals to me and I'm looking forward to it.”

During his time at Brownwood, Bowden helped lead the Lions to pair of playoff berths – extending their string of consecutive postseason appearances to 10 years.

“There's nothing that's ever going to compare to coming out of the tunnel at Gordon Wood Stadium,” Bowden said. “It's something I'm going to remember and always cherish. Some of my best memories are suiting up with my teammates, and I couldn't be happier to be from Brownwood.”

Bowden intends to major in Education at Mary Hardin-Baylor with plans to become a coach after graduation.