A once in a lifetime opportunity

Evart senior Derek Bowen to play in all-star football game in Australia

EVART — For Evart senior Derek Bowen, he thought his football career came to an end when the final seconds ticked off the clock during the Wildcats' 21-6 loss to Carson City-Crystal in the first round of the playoffs back in November.

But Bowen's football career is not done just yet as he was chosen to represent not only his school, but his state and his country at the 2014 Down Under Bowl football game in Brisbane, Australia this summer.

Bowen is one of 28 players from Michigan who will be in Brisbane from June 28-July 7 to take part in the all-star game, which will have teams from all across the United States facing off against a team made up of players from Australia.

After thinking his football career had come to an end this fall, Bowen said he couldn't turn down an opportunity to play in the Down Under Bowl.

"This is a great way to end my high school football career," Bowen said. "I really wish our season would have ended better, but I was able to receive this opportunity to play in the Down Under Bowl and it's an opportunity that I couldn't miss out on."

A first-team All-Highland Conference selection as a linebacker this season, Bowen said all high school players in Michigan who made an all-conference team received an invite to participate in the game. He said with only 28 spots open, it was a first-come, first-serve situation for the players who wanted to play.

He said he had to put a $300 deposit down to reserve his spot and that he has to raise a total of $5,000 to go on the trip, which includes opportunities to do such activities as visiting wildlife sanctuaries, skydiving, snorkeling and many more activities in addition to the football game.

Bowen said he's raised $500 so far and has until June 2 to raise all of the money for the trip, noting that he's been working with local businesses for donations and that he'll be selling t-shirts as well to help raise the necessary funds.

For Evart football coach Pat Craven, he said there isn't any other player that deserves to go to Australia to represent the Wildcat program more than Bowen does.

"I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Derek," he said. "I couldn't ask for a better person than Derek to represent not only our school and our community, but our state and our country."

Craven said Bowen was always one of the hardest working players on his team and his natural talent combined with his desire to improve has turned him into the player he is today.

"(Derek) has three things going for him," Craven said. "First off, he's very smart and he's a student of the game. He took that ability to understand the game and he matched that with his natural talent and his work ethic and that's helped him get to where he is now as a football player."

Bowen is currently playing on the boys basketball team at Evart and he said he's stayed in shape by playing for the Wildcats, but he said he's going to get back to specifically working out for football once basketball season comes to an end.

"RIght now, I'm just staying in shape with basketball and I've been working out at home," he said. "I'll start working out with some of my football coaches once basketball is done and I'll be ready to go when summer comes around. It's was a great feeling to know that they wanted me to play in this game and that makes me want to work so hard to make sure I represent my team, my state and my country the best that I can."

According to its official website, Down Under Sports was founded in 1989 by New Zealand resident George O'Scanlon, who wanted to share his love of American football with people in New Zealand and Australia. That drove him to create the Down Under Bowl, which has has had NFL players like former Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer, former Green Bay Packers running back Ahman Green and former Indianapolis Colts linebacker Rob Morris compete in the game for the United States.

Now in its 26th year, the Down Under Sports program includes competition in football, track and field, cross country, wrestling, volleyball and basketball.