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In senior season, Terps defensive end Keith Bowers leaves mark

Terps defensive end Keith Bowers (left) will be honored during Senior Day.
Terps defensive end Keith Bowers (left) will be honored during Senior Day. (Karl Merton Ferron / The Baltimore Sun)

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland defensive end Keith Bowers had two choices.

Michigan State center Jack Allen was barreling toward him, intent on plowing through Bowers and creating a hole for Spartans running back Jeremy Langford to pick up the necessary three yards on a third down play early in Maryland's 37-15 loss to the Spartans on Nov. 15.

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Bowers could have attempted to work around the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Allen. Instead, true to form, the 6-foot-1, 285-pound senior attacked Allen head-on.

With a powerful two-handed shove to Allen's chest, Bowers sent the center stumbling to his left before grabbing Langford around the midsection and throwing the ball-carrier backward well short of a first down.

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"You saw him on high school film and you saw a guy who had a great motor and played hard," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said of Bowers. "He did the things you asked him to do, and he's carried that over here at Maryland. He's a good leader and a guy that is vocal and not afraid to step up and say things.

"Between how hard he plays and how hard he works, his leadership, he's been a tremendous asset to our program. You are going to get every ounce out of Keith Bowers. He's very prideful in terms of how he plays, and he's well respected by his teammates."

Bowers, one of 22 seniors to be honored when the Terps host Rutgers on Saturday, lacks prototypical size for a defensive lineman, especially one that plays in a 3-4 scheme like Maryland's. The West Palm Beach, Fla., native is not going to run a Jadeveon Clowney-like time in the 40-yard dash. But players and coaches descirbe him as strong, tough and violent.

After sharing time at nose tackle with Darius Kilgo last year and the first three games of this season, Bowers has started eight straight games at defensive end in place of injured starter Quinton Jefferson and has contributed 37 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks.

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"It starts with my parents — humble people, people of the community that believe in service," said Bowers, whose parents have run a homeless shelter in Florida for most of his life. "I take that approach with my teammates and in this game. I know I have to sacrifice myself at times for the betterment of the team, and I [embrace that]."

Bowers began playing football around seventh grade after his mother decided he had too much energy and should use it for something productive.

In one of Bowers' first practices, he was called upon to take part in the "pit drill," where two players are tasked with lining up across from each other inside a circle. When the coach's whistle blows, the players run at one another in an attempt to knock the other out of the circle.

"I didn't even know what to do," Bowers said. "I just knew the point of the drill was to get up and hit each other. And everyone had went. I watched. And I got in, and I just remember going and running full-speed and hitting him and going through him, and I just remember everybody just going crazy. And from that point on, I understood how much I loved the physicality of the game."

Bowers was a standout at William T. Dwyer High School, recording 74 tackles and 15 sacks as a senior while helping his team to the Florida Class 4A state championship game.

A three-star prospect, Bowers was part of Edsall's first recruiting class at Maryland after he chose the Terps over scholarship offers from schools such as Kansas and Northern Illinois.

Bowers started 11 games as a freshman in 2011, becoming the first Terps true freshman to start along the defensive line since Jeremy Navarre in 2005.

After being limited by a knee injury as a sophomore in 2012, Bowers made 32 tackles and started nine games last season.

Aided by Bowers this season, the Terps allowed 219 yards of total offense during a 20-19 win over Penn State Nov. 1, held a high-powered Michigan State offense to 16 points through three-plus quarters on Nov. 15 and limited Michigan to 16 points in a win last week.

"He is very physical, very aggressive, very violent," Maryland left tackle Jake Wheeler said, "and that's what I love about him."

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