There were moments it seemed to Woodmont High School football coach Ned Cuthbertson that his top linebacker, Davonne Bowen, didn’t know his own strength.
Opponents learned about that particular skill the South Carolina signee possessed quite quickly.
“Sometimes when he hits a guy or grabs a guy, to him, he may not realize it,” Cuthbertson said. “But it drastically knocks them down or makes them look bad. I know that one time in particular, it was just on a kickoff return, and he actually wasn't the one to return at this time. He just ran up there had a full head of steam and it looked like Davonne had barely any effort to hit him, but he went flying on his back.”
This particular attribute, plus a few others, were part of the reason Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks coaching staff honed in on the defensive end-turned-linebacker. It is skills like that he hopes can get him some work early in his USC career.
“Speed, athleticism, anything they need,” Bowen said. “Explosiveness. I can get after the quarterback. I have the speed to run down receivers. I can do whatever they need me to do.”
His coach needed to make the differentiation about that play on the kickoff, because Bowen represented a first for Cuthbertson.
Playing his strong, fast, Division I-bound linebacker on special teams, this isn’t unusual. Having the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Gamecocks commit return kicks, that’s a little different.
“With his speed he actually had a kickoff return for a touchdown this year,” Cuthbertson said. “So it shows you the dynamic of his explosiveness. Yes he's fast, but he's got a lot of power behind him too.”
Bowen said in his conversations with South Carolina coaches special teams have come up often as a chance to play early. He said he embraced the idea.
He’ll also be working on transitioning to a semi-new position. Through his junior year, Bowen spent hit time blowing past high school offensive tackles as a defensive end.
But he has the skills to be a linebacker on the college level and started working there though a injury-plagued senior season (he had a lung infection and ankle/hamstring issues with the same leg).
He worked on pass drops, playing in space, something that wasn’t necessarily comfortable at first, but something he is trying to get used to. Not that he’s leaving all his defensive end skills behind, as USC’s staff is still plenty interested in those.
“They love my pass rush, they love my speed and athleticism,” Bowen said. “So they're going to use me all over. They want me to come in early being on special teams, using me all over the field. Everything they need me to do, I'm down for.”
Cuthbertson said the enthusiasm is already coming through, noting Bowen has already started trying to get a sense for USC’s schemes and defense. He also reached out to the coach several times asking Cuthbertson to take him through the workout plans the team sends signees after signing day.
His passion for football started early, in part because of his father. Tracy Bowen played on the other side of the ball, starting at Wingate University as a running back. He was an All-American there, and he still holds the school rushing record of 2,946 yards.
Cuthbertson said the Bowen’s parents were supportive of their son, with Tracy’s background as a good guide for the rigors of chasing a college dream and perhaps more.
Davonne Bowen will be a Gamecock soon enough, but it’s something he’s been aiming toward for a long time.
“I've been playing football since you could start, the youngest age,” Bowen said. “So football had always been in my life, and I fell in love with it. It's always been something I loved to do.”