UNIVERSITY PARK — Nick Bowers, a fifth-year senior tight end from Kittanning, was the first player Penn State head coach James Franklin mentioned by name during his opening statements at the team’s media day last weekend, and for good reason.
Bowers’ journey during his collegiate career has not been a smooth one by any means, but the 6-4, 260-pounder has weathered a storm of injuries and has emerged as not only a team leader in the Nittany Lions’ locker room, but a player to be counted upon for offensive production this season, according to Franklin.
“Bowers is a guy that had a bunch of injuries throughout his career and has battled through them and his family has been unbelievable and he’s been unbelievable,” Franklin said. “He’s also a guy that's a senior, and again, has had a lot of adversity and has battled through it and has just been a fantastic teammate. He's been a fantastic student here and in the community, and I think he's going to have a huge year for us this year.”
Bowers came to Penn State following a record-setting high school career for the Wildcats under former Kittanning and current Armstrong head coach Frank Fabian.
Before Kittanning and Ford City High School consolidated to form Armstrong, Fabian saw Bowers’ maturity first-hand as the highly talented pass catcher worked his way to Happy Valley during injury-plagued sophomore and senior seasons.
“I think it speaks to Nick’s maturity and his mindset that he was able to continue to be the consummate teammate when he was coming back from injury during his high school years,” Fabian said. “So it’s no surprise that Coach Franklin mentioned him when he was talking about the players he would be looking to for leadership. That is just natural for Nick. He comes from a football family and I know that even while he battled those injuries early in college, he was doing all the right things in the locker room and on the practice field.”
The “football family” theme comes through repeatedly when discussing Bowers with former coaches, or when Bowers himself talks about his football journey.
Bowers’ grandfather Wilbur, father, Brad, and uncle, Curt, all played college football. Bowers’ father was on Fabian’s staff at Kittanning while his son was there and currently serves as an assistant coach on Fabian’s sideline at Armstrong.
Those bloodlines and the never-quit mentality that come with them constitute the main reason why Bowers has been able to grow into a leadership role for Franklin and his Penn State teammates.
“Injuries are always tough, but I’ve tried to persevere through that and I have a great family back home and they have really helped me get through the tough times,” Bowers said. “It was always my dream to play Penn State football and when you’re hurt, you kind of step back and watch how things work and you try not to take anything for granted.”
Bowers caught a one-yard touchdown against Kentucky in Penn State’s 27-24 loss to the Wildcats in last year’s Citrus Bowl. It was a moment of exhilaration for Bowers, but Fabian saw something more from that play, a moment he believes will benefit both his former player as well as the 2019 edition of the Nittany Lions.
“I think that touchdown represented a kind of finish line for Nick,” Fabian said. “To catch that ball, to score in that game, was the culmination of all his work to get back. I think the sky is the limit for him this year.”