Miami’s newest running back has a powerful story to tell: Overcoming scars as a special talent

Northwestern running back Isaiah Bowser, right, is tackled by Wisconsin linebacker Jack Sanborn during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Northwestern running back Isaiah Bowser, right, is tackled by Wisconsin linebacker Jack Sanborn during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Credit: Nam Y. Huh

Credit: Nam Y. Huh

He hopes to finish it the same way, albeit at Miami University instead of Northwestern.

A 6-foot-1, 220-pound power back, Bowser hopes to display an expanded game in coach Chuck Martin’s Miami offense with the help of running backs coach Lamar Conard.

“I have aspirations of playing in NFL, and I think he can help me reach that as well as being the best player I can be,” Bowser said of Conard in an interview this week.

“I think he sees the vision that I see going forward. He knows what I want to do, and he’s going to help me do the things I want to do in the future.”

After a record-setting career at Sidney, Bowser ran for 866 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman at Northwestern in 2018.

His emergence in the second half of that season was huge in the Wildcats’ run to the Big Ten West division championship as it gave Northwestern’s offense needed balance.

Since then, injuries have limited Bowser to only 12 games. He had 204 yards on 59 carries as a sophomore and 230 yards on 78 carries last season.

But, as the Journal-News has chronicled in the past, Bowser has already overcome many obstacles. Columnist Tom Archdeacon spoke with Bowser while he was a senior at Sidney to tell his story of pain that started in his childhood.

It was Father's Day in 2001 and he was 23 months old. The man watching over him and his 5-year-old sister, Mariah, was the boyfriend of his mom, Melissa Bowser.

“I had left to go to the store and I was gone literally 15 minutes," Melissa explained. “When I got back Isaiah was in the middle of the room (screaming). I was like, ‘What is going on? What happened here?' "

Isaiah said he was so small that he doesn't remember much of what happened: “I think he (the boyfriend) was upset with me because I was crying and he put my hands in (boiling) hot water."

- Journal-News, Oct. 28, 2017

The incident led to years of hiding the scars on his hands while becoming a celebrated football player.

Now, he’s looking forward. By the end of the truncated 2020 campaign, Northwestern had a crowded backfield with freshmen Cam Porter and Evan Hull coming into their own, and Bowser announced in January his intention to transfer.

That meant entering the transfer portal, which turned out to be a bit of a blast from the past.

“It felt like being in high school again talking to all these coaches,” he said with a laugh. “They’re all giving their best pitch and everything why you should come to this school and stuff like that.

“It was kind of stressful again, just like it was in high school, just because you’re trying to make the best decision for you and your future.”

This winter, Bowser is still at Northwestern finishing work toward a degree in learning and organizational change.

In Oxford, he is interested in working toward a graduate degree in sports management with thoughts of becoming an athletic director some day.

The opportunity to play closer to home is also appealing to Bowser, whose friends and family should have an easier time seeing him play (if fans are allowed in stadiums this fall) in Southwest Ohio than Northeast Illinois.

“Having that support group of my family and friends was a big thing in making the decision to come back closer to home as well as just understanding the type of player I am and what I need to showcase going forward,” Bowser said.

After helping the Yellow Jackets return to the playoffs for the first time in nearly 30 years, Bowser feels like he was able to prove something by getting on the field and producing at a Big Ten school.

“I don’t think anybody (at Northwestern) knew where Sidney was, even the players from Ohio that are on the team, but I think I definitely represented them well,” Bowser said. “I think I made ‘em realize kids from Sidney can make it and they can be good players.”

He confirmed living in Evanston, which is located on the northern edge of Chicago (population of just under 2.7 million) along Lake Michigan, has its differences from growing up in Sidney (population just under 21,000).

“Yes, it’s a big difference,” he said. “Coming from Sidney and going to Chicago and Evanston, there are a lot more people, a lot more diversity of people. I think the location up here is beautiful with the lake and Chicago. I think Chicago is an amazing city. Probably one of my favorites really in America, but it’s been so cool. I’ve ventured out and seen a lot of things up here. I’ve enjoyed my time up here and the scenery is great.

“It has been a blessing to go through everything I’ve been through. Lots of ups and downs. It’s all part of the journey, but I’ve learned a lot. I think I’ve grown a lot, not only as a ballplayer but as a man as well.

“I’m happy to be where I’m at and looking forward to the future.”

In Other News