On Dec. 14, Luke Bowanko sat on the 45-yard line at Scott Stadium as chill filled the air and rain pelted off the bleachers.
His Twitter caption of “Never letting the high school days die! Let's go Centreville!!” was joined with a picture of poncho-wrapped spectators taking a peek at a soggy David A. Harrison III Field.
The Group 6A state title game matched Oscar Smith High School and, yes, Centreville, Bowanko’s proud alma mater.
Not many gave the Wildcats a chance. After all, they were up against the nationally-ranked juggernaut from the famed 757, a Smith bunch led by Virginia commitment and National Gatorade Player of the Year, Andrew Brown.
Inside the UVa football community, playful banter ensued.
“Before that game,” said Bowanko, now a former Cavalier offensive lineman, “[former UVa and Oscar Smith running back] Perry Jones spotted me four touchdowns, made the spread 28 points. ... I think we reversed it.”
The Fighting Bowankos pulled a shocking upset, winning 35-6.
A day later, Bowanko received an unexpected invitation from the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl, a platform for departing college players to perform in front of NFL scouts and coaches during the second week of January in Charleston, S.C.
High school glory one day. A professional opportunity the next? It was quite the cheery weekend for the 6-foot-6, 295-pounder.
“Then I went to Vegas and lost it all,” Bowanko deadpanned during a recent phone interview. “I thought I was hot.”
Never at a loss for a one-liner, Bowanko’s taken his engaging personality to Charleston this week for another crack at continuing his football career.
The MOH Bowl kicks off at 2 p.m., today, inside Johnson Hagood Stadium on the campus of The Citadel.
Bowanko is Virginia’s lone representative in the game. He’ll play for the American team, joined by former ACC rivals such as Wake Forest defensive tackle Nikita Whitlock and Maryland linebacker Marcus Whitfield.
“I’m obviously fairly new to the process, but one of the biggest things is the opportunity to be in front of different NFL scouts that you get to talk to face-to-face and get to know them,” Bowanko said. “You can let them get to know you and clear some things up. And then, obviously, you get the opportunity to practice in front of guys who haven’t necessarily scouted your region or your school.
“It’s a good chance to get your name in front of some people and see what you got. I’ve got 12 games of film out there that will trump one week of practice. But it’s definitely good to confirm or deny or maybe improve my stock a little bit.”
Bowanko, a three-star recruit out of Centreville, started the final 37 games of his Virginia career, roaming between guard and center.
Asked about Bowanko’s playing future during last season, UVa offensive line coach Scott Wachenheim had high praise for his on-the-field work, plus his leadership off it.
Wachenheim said he could see Bowanko winding up as a team’s player-rep in the NFL Players Association.
Bowanko has a B.A. in foreign affairs. After the MOH Bowl, he’ll return to Virginia to complete his Master’s degree in athletics administration.
“My dream job’s always kind of been to be a general manager of a professional sports franchise ever since I drafted a team on Madden back in the day,” Bowanko said. “But just getting the ball rolling, that’s kind of a big thing. Who knows where it will take me.”
But playing football is still very much on the table.
Bowanko doesn’t plan for his lucky streak to stop anytime soon.
“I’m finishing up my degree, training with Coach [Evan] Marcus,” he said. “I think a couple of the other guys are going to be in town like [former UVa defensive end] Jake Snyder, training.
“That’s pretty much my focus. I’m 100 percent committed to trying to make this happen.”