Redshirt senior Gerald Bowman got the opportunity of a lifetime, an extra year of college eligibility. Making his way back on the field after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury against Arizona State, Bowman now factors into the Trojans' plans as one of the starting safeties on defense.
"It's really special man. I take nothing for granted, I'm humble, you know what I mean," Bowman said. "To have another opportunity, I'm hungry man. I'm just trying to get better every day, get my unit better every day."
Entering his third season wearing Cardinal and Gold, Bowman has experienced many highs and lows of playing college football. Fortunate for another opportunity as a medical redshirt senior, Bowman exhibits his humble appreciation for the game through careful study and opportunistic performance in USC's secondary.
That experience shined bright during USC's scrimmage Wednesday night when Bowman had the chance to make his impact felt during the 98-play scrimmage. His arms crossed staring directly at the line of scrimmage following a quick series of first-team reps on defense, Bowman stuck true to his usual keys for success.
"Mental reps," Bowman explained. "The older you get, the more you understand the game. It's crazy how much I've learned, just about the game of football, since I've been here."
For Gerald Bowman, the journey has been both challenging and rewarding. The transfer from Los Angeles Pierce Junior College has probably taken more mental reps than almost every player on USC's defense, and that diligent approach to the game keeps him comfortable in the moment when the light shines brightest.
"The situation is a little different, some people may get a little antsy or have some anxiety," said Bowman, describing the fully-padded scrimmage. "We have to stick to what we know, what we are coached to do, and (we) have to go out and execute."
Learning the intricacies of the game alongside current NFL players T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling roaming around USC's Howard Jones Field, Bowman continually mirrors the way both these players mentally approach the game.
The Trojans' safety corp is very talented, but also quite young. Playing next to the likes of All-American safety Su'a Cravens, heralded prospect Leon McQuay III, versatile threat Josh Shaw and rising freshman John Plattenburg, Bowman fits into the talented picture as the generous watch dog for this entire secondary.
"Just setting an example. Even though I didn't play as much my first two seasons here, I feel like a lot of people look up to me as like a bigger brother to them, you know what I mean," Bowman hypothesized, before adding, "No matter of status or what you were or anything like that, that doesn't really matter."
Bowman has always found a way to be in the right place at the right time. For example, in last night's scrimmage, Bowman recognized what Max Browne wanted to do with the football by observing the formation at the line of scrimmage.
Browne turned towards the far sideline firing a strike, which was quickly deflected off the hands of the wide receiver attempting to make an improbable catch. As both the corner and wideout fell flat on the grass, in came the ever-aware Gerald Bowman for a nice diving interception right in front of USC's offensive sideline.
"For a guy like me who has been here in the spring, I understand the defense, the schemes and stuff like that," Bowman confidently said. "I feel as though if I wasn't the type of person I am, I'm not obligated (to lend a helping hand). But, I feel like I gotta help those guys out and get them ready to play."
While his impact may not spark headlines, nor garner the national attention of talented peers, Bowman feels plenty of eyes are still watching his every move.
"When people look up to you, they are constantly watching you," he said. "Watching what you are doing, what you are lacking, cause at the end of the day they just look up to you."
Being observant of this attention, Bowman treats every play like a professional. Hundreds of mental reps logged in his head, combined with a "very comfortable" understanding of what USC wants to do defensively, Bowman goes out and performs while also making sure all his players learn those fine intricacies along the way.
"I just try to set the bar high. Go out and just give all I got," Bowman promised, listing important keys to his success. "Talk, communicate, just set an example for them ,so they can get themselves together and be a productive player."
As USC gets closer to the season opener, Gerald Bowman feels honored to have one last chance to take the field with his teammates starting August 30th against Fresno State.