GONE TOO SOON
Friends, teammates share memories of Brock Bowman
By Gary Lloyd
Half of a short Bible verse read at his memorial service describes Brock Bowman.
Proverbs 17:22 says “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Bowman was good medicine.
Bowman, 17, drowned while inner tubing with friends in the Cahaba River last Thursday, his body trapped between some rocks in the water. He would have been a junior right tackle for the Hewitt-Trussville varsity football team this year. He was competing for the starting spot.
Junior defensive end Hunter Songer helped Bowman when he started playing school football in eighth grade. Songer said Bowman wasn’t very physical early on, and struggled with blocking defenders.
“He was a fighter, and he was a competitor,” Songer said. “He fought. No matter what it took, he was going to beat you.”
Bowman was on the scout team last year, and he had worked his way into the discussion for starting right tackle this season. If he didn’t start, he would have been the first backup off the bench to come into games. Senior defensive end Austin Wysor, who lined up against Bowman every day in practice, said Bowman had gotten “incredibly better.”
“It’s going to be hard knowing he’s not going to be there the next time,” Wysor said of Bowman, who would have worn No. 70 this season.
Patrick DePew, one of 15 pallbearers dressed in khaki pants, a white button-down shirt and red tie at Bowman’s funeral Monday, helped Bowman get a job at Cold Stone Creamery in May. Scooping frozen ice cream can be tough, and Bowman joked with DePew that by the time he was done working there, his forearms would be larger than his legs. Last Thursday morning was the last time DePew saw Bowman, when the two and about 18 other football players ate breakfast after practice at Chick-fil-A. They talked about the upcoming school year and football.
“It was just a normal day,” DePew said.
The life of the party
An avid bass fisherman who would easily defeat you at sports video games, Bowman was a “true goofball,” Wysor said. He made jokes and smiled all the time.
“If you had a bad day, and you saw him smile, you couldn’t help but laugh,” Wysor said.
Tony Hampton, a senior basketball player, knew Bowman since last summer. The last time Hampton saw him was in June, driving away from Jack Wood Stadium after running laps. Bowman and others were near the tennis courts, when Hampton called out to them.
“Brock came running to my car and just basically stuck half of his body in my car from the passenger side and hugged me, shook my hand and drank the rest of my Gatorade,” Hampton said. “Great example of how silly and fun he was.”
Hampton last school year sat on one side of a classroom, Bowman on the other. They’d sing across the room to each other, usually new rap songs that had just been released. Even teachers who should’ve been angry laughed.
“He definitely kept everybody laughing and happy,” Hampton said. “He was just fun to be around. I never had a dull moment with Brock. Never.”
When Bowman was 2, he climbed up the basement stairs while his mom, Kathy, was downstairs talking on the phone. When he reached the kitchen, he pulled out drawers to resemble stairs, climbed them and found a lighter. Use your imagination as to what happened to the cabinets. While riding in a vehicle with friends and his mom in Tuscaloosa, searching for Coleman Coliseum, he leaned his head out the window and asked strangers for directions to the beach. He was outgoing and funny.
“He was always the life of the party,” Wysor said. “That’s what he was.”
Bowman, who was prone to watch “Top Gun” over and over and pretend he was sitting inside a car while in a classroom, always made friends laugh, even when they were in bad moods.
“That was his ultimate goal,” Songer said.
As for video games, Bowman is thought to be one of the toughest competitors. He had NCAA Football ’14 and was already 4-0 against friends. He always talked good-natured trash with friends, including Wysor. After a team meeting earlier this summer, Wysor asked Bowman if he was ready to face off. Bowman couldn’t play that day.
“I never got a chance to play him,” Wysor said.
Most who knew Bowman first met him in park league baseball, on the base paths at the Trussville Sports Complex. Clay-Chalkville baseball player Wesley Meier played with him, as did Pinson Valley football offensive lineman Sam Hancock. It’s where Songer met him when they were 5 or 6 years old.
Bowman loved playing with G.I. Joes in his younger years, Airsoft guns with friends as he got older. He proudly holds a bass fish in his profile picture on Twitter, showing off the smile that all who knew him remember and won’t forget. He was sarcastic and kept everybody laughing, but he never took any joke too far.
At a game last season, he left his hip pads out of his pants, replacing the hip protectors with yellow bags of Sour Patch Kids candies. When a coach yelled in his direction to get rid of them, he threw them on the field. On an elevator with a friend in Florida, he noticed the little gap between the elevator and the floor. He wondered if a cell phone would fit through that gap. He “accidentally” dropped his phone, and it fit. A security guard’s search turned up the phone, in three pieces. After reattaching the pieces, the phone still worked.
Despite his sarcastic and jokey nature, Bowman was a great friend, someone friends could count on for anything, any time.
“Brock was just an all around true teammate, great athlete and an even better person,” said Hewitt-Trussville junior kicker T.J. McGettigan. “You couldn’t help but to laugh whenever he was around.”
Players will dedicate their seasons to Bowman, a teammate, a friend, a brother, taken too soon. There will be T-shirts with his name and number, shirt buttons, helmets with “70” stickers, “RIP” on cleats, more motivation in hearts. A perfect 15-0 season, a state championship, is how teammates want to honor Bowman.
“That’s the best way we can honor him,” Songer said. “That’s what he would want.”
At Bowman’s memorial service, the song “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe was played as old photographs of Bowman scrolled across a screen. The song lyrics describe what it may be like in Heaven, standing before God. Other songs were played, including “Good Ole Boys Like Us” by J.J. Lawhorn. Part of the song fits the tragedy: “When I look up at that photograph, see the smile there on his face, well man it sure is hard to grasp, but I know he’s in a better place.”
In Bowman’s room, a plaque hung on the wall, instructing to laugh often, give like you have plenty and love with all your heart. This was Bowman’s life.
First Baptist Church Trussville Pastor Buddy Champion said at Bowman’s service, speaking in the direction of Bowman’s teammates, most who wore their jerseys, that in the last week they’ve seen the value of love, of what love can do in their hearts, in their lives.
“You now have a bond that has thrown you together through the life of Brock that should never be lost,” Champion said. “Your relationships should be deeper than you’ve ever known before.”
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.