UGA TE Brock Bowers is finally back on a football field. Playing games runs in the family

Marc Weiszer
Athens Banner-Herald
Tight end Brock Bowers, from Napa, Calif., has gone over a year without playing a football game because of the pandemic. He had 39 catches for 1,098 yards with 14 touchdowns as a junior and committed to the Bulldogs last August.

The first real college football game for UGA's 16 early enrollees won’t come until September, but Saturday’s G-Day will probably feel awfully close for Brock Bowers. His last game was 17 months ago.

The tight end from Napa, Calif., was hoping to play as a high school senior, but when his home state still hadn't started its pandemic-delayed season by January, he decided to enroll at Georgia.

“He was devastated,” said Warren Bowers, his father. “They kept moving the bar so he was pretty wound up, upset, disappointed and frustrated. That’s the last thing you need going into your senior year, right? You want to have a good time and be the big kid on the block. It was a shame.”

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They bounced the idea of doing what other soon-to-be college players that had no fall football did — move to a state where games were still played.

They talked about picking up and moving to Athens and playing with another member of UGA’s 2021 signing class, quarterback Brock Vandagriff at Prince Avenue Christian, or playing for Warren’s friend who coaches at a school in Reno, Nev.

They decided to stay put in Wine Country — the closest winery to them is the Fontanella Family Winery — and see whether Napa High’s season would be played before Bowers had to leave for Georgia. It didn’t.

Bowers, rated as the nation’s No. 3 tight end prospect by the 247Sports Composite, spent the fall doing workouts with a personal trainer, John Cortese, during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“He was driven to get better,” his father said.

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Bowers graduated and is now rooming with Vandagriff and linebacker Chazz Chambliss, another freshman, at Georgia.

His parents flew with him in January to help move him into UGA and are returning this week for the spring game.

Their daughter, Brianna, is also a college athlete, playing outfield for the softball team at Sacramento State about an hour away.

Brock and Brianna followed their parents’ path in the same sports that they excelled in at Utah State.

Mother DeAnna was inducted into that school’s athletics hall of fame in 2016 after an All-American pitching career. Warren was a three-time All-Big West center at the school.

That made playing games at home rather competitive.

“We were pretty intense, let’s put it that way,” Warren said. “From everything from front yard football to friggin' Easter egg hunting.”

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Bowers, listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, looked to be on a basketball path, but that changed when he went to The Opening regional and ran a 4.55 40 and recorded a 40.2-inch vertical jump.

In the next week, he had an offer from Nevada. Oregon State was on board weeks later, then other offers started piling up. After he went to a Southern Cal camp, the Trojans offered, then other schools jumped aboard, including Georgia that September.

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Bowers, who had 39 catches for 1,098 yards with 14 touchdowns as a junior, committed to the Bulldogs last August. He liked Athens’ small town feel and the energy of the Georgia coaches, including position coach Todd Hartley

His father is on the coaching staff at Napa High, which is playing a five-game spring season that started in the state March 5. Brock is catching his former teammates by watching the games on a live stream.

“He’s staying up a little too late on Friday nights before Saturday’s scrimmages to watch them play,” his father said.

It apparently hasn’t affected him much. Coach Kirby Smart offered his early impression of Bowers after Georgia’s first spring scrimmage April 3 after Bowers already was generating buzz in the closed practices.

“He’s a talented guy, he’s bright and learning quickly; he’s got some speed and burst, he has great hands,” Smart said. “He’s got a ways to go in the blocking game in terms of the run game, but that’s something he’s going to develop. He’s got toughness.”

That 4.55 speed has shown up on the practice field.

“Brock, he’s an excellent player,” safety Christopher Smith said. “He’s a smart route runner and has a good amount of speed. A couple of times he done broke ankles on me. I had to speed it up a little bit to catch him and hold him down. I didn’t know that he was that fast. Brock’s a great player, really level-headed. All he wants to do is work and compete.”

His parents — Warren is a president of a construction firm and DeAnna a math teacher — are ready for cross-country trips to see Brock play the next few seasons. They bought a condo in downtown Athens.

Georgia already has some big targets at tight end in sophomore Darnell Washington and John Fitzpatrick. Bowers appears to be a strong candidate for touches now as well.

“This kid lined up at tailback in high school and made plays,” Smart said, “so he’s used to carrying the ball.”