UW Football Primer: Bowman Went From Walk-On to One of Pac-12's Best

Dan Raley

Ryan Bowman was ignored, the walk-on, the little brother, the huge surprise.

Now entering his senior season, the outside rusher is someone the University of Washington defensive unit heavily depends on to raise havoc.

He's good at it.

As much as anyone on the Huskies roster, Bowman has gone to great lengths to prove himself at every turn, by earning playing time, a starting job and second-team All-Pac-12 recognition.

No one has been able to restrain this still greatly undersized 6-foot, 269-pound defender on the edges. He's privy to that.

"The mentality has to be nasty and relentless the whole game," Bowman said. "I knew if I got on the field, I could make things happen."

In three seasons, Bowman totals 96 tackles, which includes 23.5 tackles for loss for 125 yards and 12 sacks for 84 yards. He counts four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception on his resume.

"He keeps coming," UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. "The feet never stop."

While his 6-4, 303-pound older brother Shane Bowman was a scholarship recruit and a defensive tackle for the Huskies, Ryan mulled an offer from Montana and not much more. 

This was the case even after the younger Bowman left Bellevue High School in the Seattle suburbs and spent his senior year at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, seeking greater football exposure.

He walked on at the UW and, following a redshirt season, Ryan Bowman got his chance to play in 2017. He lined up next to his brother against Rutgers for the first time, and thriving in the family connection while getting noticed, led the UW in sacks with 5.5. 

"Playing football at this level is so special," brother Shane Bowman said, "and to play it with your best friend and brother is something that doesn't happen all of the time."

Ryan Bowman became a full-fledged starter last season and turned in another 5.5 sacks. He received Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week recognition following a disruptive showing against Arizona in a 52-27 victory on the road. He picked up a sack, intercepted a pass and recovered a blocked punt.

"You don't really realize what happened until after," Bowman said of the big plays. "You're just kind of going crazy in the moment."

Others have been keeping track. Bowman and fellow outside rusher and junior Joe Tryon were named to the second-team, all-conference team, joining senior defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike and cornerback Elijah Molden with league defensive honors.

They're the core of solid stop unit. Bowman easily fits in.

"I'm different than what you would typically get for an outside rusher, because usually on the outside they want guys with length," Bowman said. "I bring a little different skill set to the table."

SUMMARY: The little Bowman brother is a big contributor for the Husky defense. He makes things happen. No one has figured out how to stop him.

GRADE (1 to 5): Bowman gets a 3.5, limited not by effort, but for his compact size. The way his career has gone, he will likely convince everyone he's better than that.