Setting a goal of being MVP of an all-star football game is risky. There are too many uncontrollable variables like playing time and dependence on teammates you’ve never played with.
Summertime all-star football games are often sloppy. They occur 7-8 months since most of the players have donned pads and played in a game. Offensive players have just a few days to adjust to their teammates, much less a scheme, and develop any kind of timing or rhythm.
But all those challenges were no problem for former Brownwood High School quarterback Tommy Bowden, whose pregame goals for the June 8 Myrle Greathouse All-Star Classic in Abilene were to win the game and be named the Offensive MVP. The left-handed Bowden led the Blue Team to a 60-13 win over the Red Team by completing 15 of 18 passes for 263 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Bowden also rushed for two touchdowns and was named the game’s Offensive MVP, an award named for former legendary Brownwood coach Gordon Wood.
“It was a fun game to play in. I had a great bunch of guys to play with,” Bowden said. “I was still in good physical condition from running track, and the heat didn’t bother me. We ran a lot of RPOs (run-pass options), and I love that offense.”
The Myrle Greathouse Classic capped a weeklong Big Country Area Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Festival that included all-star games in basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball and football played in Brownwood, San Angelo and Abilene.
Bowden’s strong all-star performance figures to serve as a nice springboard into his next challenge — being one of 10-12 quarterbacks vying to stick with the NCAA Division III national championship team at Mary Hardin-Baylor. The Crusaders, or Cru as they are known around their Belton campus, won the 2016 and 2018 NCAA III national championships, and were the national runner-up in 2017. They have a 44-1 record over the last three seasons.
Like other D-III football programs, UMHB draws about 150 players each year and sees which ones will stick it out and stay with the team, which offers academic scholarships but can’t offer athletic scholarships.
“It’s ironic. Lamar, which is Division I, recruited Tommy later on, and they have five quarterbacks on their roster because they’re limited on how many players they can have on scholarship. But UMHB, which is Division III and doesn’t give athletic scholarships, can have as many players as they want. They will have 10 to 12 quarterbacks, and five or six have already been there for a year or longer,” said Brad Bowden, Tommy’s dad and a former Brownwood assistant coach.
Tommy Bowden said he didn’t mind all the competition at quarterback, which includes two players that started games for the Cru last season.
“If you want to be the best, you have to go to the best team and play the best opponents,” Tommy said. “I may not play as soon as I would have at another school, but in the long run, playing at a program like UMHB will make me the best player I can be. They have a national championship mentality, and that’s attractive as a player.”
Tommy Bowden put up plenty of impressive statistics as Brownwood’s starting quarterback in 2017 and 2018. During the last two seasons, Tommy passed for 4,458 yards and 42 touchdowns, plus he rushed for 1,309 yards and 24 TDs. During the 2017 season, he passed for 26 TDs against only one interception.
He was named the 2018 District 5-4A Offensive MVP in a district that included state champion Waco La Vega and perennial statewide powers Stephenville and China Spring.
The only thing missing from Tommy’s high school football resume was a lot of wins. Brownwood was 10-11 in his two seasons as a starter and lost in bidistrict both years.
“Obviously, I wish our team had done better,” Tommy said. “But I can honestly say that I left it all on the field at every practice and in every game.”
Tommy also ran track for Brownwood, and as a senior this spring, he helped the Lions win the Region I-4A team championship and finish fourth at the UIL state meet. Tommy ran personal-best times of 14.50 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles and 39.81 in the 300 hurdles while finishing fourth and seventh, respectively, at state.
Tommy benefitted from the help of BHS assistant coach Jessica Withrow, a former girls’ 300 hurdles state champion at Muleshoe more than a decade ago.
“I ran track to stay in shape for football, and I was always ready for it to be over. But I actually enjoyed track this year with Coach Withrow,” Tommy said.
“I knew she won state in the hurdles and helped ACU (Abilene Christian University) win a national championship. I knew all she could do was help me, and she did.”
Tommy, who will be moving to Belton and UMHB, won’t be the only Bowden relocating this summer. Brad will be a football and track coach at China Spring starting this fall.