High School Sports

Phenom gears up for Shrine Bowl

ROEBUCK -- Dennis Bowers works all week driving an 18-wheeler across the country and back to Bamberg.

The last four years, he's tried to be back by every fall Friday so he and his wife, Linda, can get to the stadium and watch their only child, DaQuan, play football for Bamberg-Ehrhardt.

On weekends, Dennis plays in a gospel music group -- Tommy Ellison and the Five Singing Stars. Dennis taught his son to play the guitar, drums and keyboard. DaQuan is more than glad to substitute for band members that can't make it.

But DaQuan won't have much time for his musical talents in the near future. He's headed to Clemson to play football and further his education. After that, he could land a job in the NFL.

"I think he'll definitely be playing on Sundays one day,'' said Orangeburg-Wilkinson's Reggie Kennedy, head coach and defensive coordinator of South Carolina's Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas All-Star Football team. "DaQuan is a special kid. He has size, speed and strength, and just looking at him you can tell he's a phenomenal player.''

DaQuan Bowers is 6-foot-5 and weighs 260 pounds. He played defensive end, running back, wide receiver and returned kicks for the Red Raiders. He's on the basketball team and also competes on Bamberg-Ehrhardt's track and field team, running the 100-yard-dash, 200, 400 relay and throwing the shot.

Lewisville's Floyd Drum, coach of South Carolina's defensive line, calls Bowers a specimen. He'll start at defensive end Saturday with three other highly recruited players -- Newberry's Kentrell Davis (6-5, 285, committed to South Carolina), Calhoun County's Donte Rumph (6-3, 260, Kentucky) and Byrnes' Everett Dawkins (6-3, 235, Florida State).

"My kid, Dion Foster, and Greenwood's Jordan Gary are in the mix, too,'' Drum said Tuesday. "But the four starters, what more can you say? It's like they are coaching me instead of me coaching them.

"And Bowers, what a specimen. When he got here Sunday, I couldn't remember his first name. I asked another coach and he told me it's either 'Sir' or 'Mister.' If that's what he wants to be called, I have no beef with it.''

Bowers was unsure at an early age which direction his athletic career would take. He played every youth sport the recreation leagues in his hometown sponsored but after growing four inches and shooting up to 275 pounds between eighth and ninth grade, Bowers knew it would be football.

"That was the first year I went to football camp at Clemson and they offered me a scholarship that summer,'' Bowers said. "I was so excited that I couldn't wait to tell everybody when I got home.

"I've always been a Clemson fan. My cousin, Chris Franklin, played there in the '90s and another cousin, Ricky Sapp, plays there now. Another of my cousins, Matt Raysor, played at South Carolina. Matt tried to talk me out of it, but the other two won out.''

Although Clemson was an easy choice, Bowers had three other schools on his list before picking the Tigers. He considered USC, Florida State and Tennessee, but decided to follow his heart and pick Clemson. Those are lofty suitors for a player coming from a Class A school.

The decision, he said, was actually made last January. He's qualified, with a 3.4 grade-point average and a 1080 on his SAT.

Bowers has seen magazine, newspaper and Internet stories that praise his abilities and rank him as one of the top players in the nation. It's nice, he said, but not something he dwells on.

"I don't put myself above my team or any other players,'' he said. "When I'm on the football field, I play my heart out doing whatever I can to help my team get a victory.''

Bowers sat out Tuesday's afternoon practice after suffering a stinger to his right shoulder. After practice he went to the training room to have it checked and was fitted with a portable stimulator device, just a tad bigger than a hand-held video game, and told to take care of it at lunch because it cost $600.

He said it would be no problem and returned it in the same condition. Instead of staying in the training room at Dorman High School, which he could have done, Bowers suited up and went outside to support his new teammates.

None of the other 43 stars from across the state were surprised he was out there, and listening to his principal, Randy Maxwell, nothing less should have been expected.

"He's a great kid who knows he has talent, but handles it well,'' Maxwell said. "He has played with us four years and everybody in town likes him. He's such a big kid that it's hard not to notice him.

"After games, little kids surround him and ask for autographs. After we played Barnwell, our big rival, the girls from there were around him like a covey of quail. He's not perfect, but I don't know of a soul around here that has anything but good things to say about him.''

• When: 1 p.m. Saturday

• Where: Gibbs Stadium, Spartanburg

• Tickets: $10 in advance or by calling (803) 547-0300; $15 at the gate