2020 NFL Draft: Lynn Bowden Jr. says interested teams see him ‘playing everything,’ uses ex-Steeler as comp

Lynn Bowden Jr. was a high school quarterback who made the transition to wide receiver when he arrived in Lexington as a highly decorated recruit. Entering his junior campaign, the Wildcats had lost a few quarterbacks to transfer. Two games into the season, they would lose their starter as well. Kentucky was 2-2 entering their game against South Carolina.

“I threw my name in there after the South Carolina game,” Bowden told CBSSports.com. “Coach put me in there for our last drive on offense and he never looked back from there. I sent him a text [after the game], I was just reading it the other day. It was like, ‘give me a shot and you won’t regret it.’ I lived up to what I told coach in that text.”

He certainly did. Bowden racked up 348 receiving yards, 1,468 rushing yards and 403 passing yards in his final season. The opportunity took him back to the days of being a high school athlete.

“The game was in my hands,” Bowden said. “I touched the ball every snap and distributed it; the best playmaker with the ball in his hands every play something good is bound to happen.”

Although he was unable to display his craft at wide receiver, Bowden believes that playing quarterback actually helped his draft stock.

“I feel like it helped me,” he said. “They probably would have liked to see me play more wide receiver but it just showed how versatile I was. It showed teams different things that they could do with me. Some of the wide receivers in this class only play wide receiver.”

He estimated that 15 teams met with him while at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. Their vision for him is one similar to what Deebo Samuel played out last year with the 49ers.

“A lot of teams see me as playing everything, not just receiver,” Bowden said. “They asked me what position I am comfortable with and I tell them that I don’t have a set position. You can play me all over the field. Whatever position y’all are going to pick me earlier at, mark me down for that.”

The Ohio native is not concerning himself with where he might be used at the next level. In fact, he embraces the challenge.

“I am trying to play everything that I can, any way I can or however I can,” Bowden said. “I am trying to get on the field and make my debut. I told them to put the ball in my hands and they’ll see why Kentucky was in love with me back there [as a punt and kick returner]. I know they want to test mental toughness and everything. I’m ready for all of that.”

Bowden has heard a wide range of player comparisons and feels that one fits him better than another.

“I think I am more of an Antwaan Randle-El because I’m still a Steelers fan,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, not to take from Taysom Hill, he is athletic and can do different things all over the field but I am very athletic. As far as playing different positions and moving all over the field, I like that comparison. Just comparing me and him flat out, I don’t think it is doing me justice with how athletic I am. I never want to take away from another man and his abilities but speaking in general I see a more versatile guy.”

He is flattered to draw comparisons to fellow former Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb as well.

“I think that is a good comparison,” Bowden said. “He is a true definition of versatile. It is crazy because I went through the same thing that he did. He was mainly the quarterback. I had to step up and be the quarterback. I am grateful for comparisons like that. I’ve learned from watching and hearing the stories. I would be grateful for it.”

As for where Bowden might be drafted later next week, “I think if you go off my film, it is self-explanatory.”

The wide receiver has been projected to be taken anywhere from the second to fourth rounds. But it only takes one team to buy into what he is selling. 

The path taken has not always been littered with rose petals and rainbows. The tattooed kid from Youngstown comes from one of the most hardened cities in America and he readily admits that he nearly gave up football to return to that street lifestyle. One person put it all into perspective.

“My son brought me back,” Bowden said. “[Everyone was] trying to make sure if I was good with where my mind was. I was in a dark place. I was young ready to go back to the life that I was living. At the end of the day, I think about how every decision that I make is going to impact my son. I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize what I had going. I’m very grateful. A lot of people down here don’t get to say they are going to be in the draft or just have a shot at playing because some teams might have a fear of taking a kid from Youngstown, Ohio. I am getting that chance so I am very grateful.”

His son, Lynn Bowden III, changed everything.

“It forced me to grow up right away,” Bowden said. “I couldn’t go out there doing the things that I used to do and thinking about my son not waking up to me. I had to think about things differently. I had to move differently. As far as my son, things were just different in general. That’s the No. 1 reason that I’m doing everything that I’m doing. A lot of things went in with helping me get here but my son is by far the most motivating factor in my life.”

Out of Warren G. Harding High School, Bowden found a fit at Kentucky. Head coach Mark Stoops, associate head coach and tight ends coach Vince Marrow and others on staff also grew up through the weeds in Youngstown. 

“They know all about me,” Bowden said. “They knew the type of stuff that I was coming from because they lived here and were from here. They knew the type of stuff they were getting out of me and that was the biggest factor for me, just being able to relate to me. A lot of coaches don’t know how to relate to a kid like me coming from a place like this and they did. We always went up, never back.”

Three and a half years later, he has the opportunity to play at football’s highest level.

“What better way for the story to unfold, especially my story growing up the way that I did and not really having the opportunities and making the best out of the opportunities that presented itself,” Bowden said. “I don’t think my story could have played out any better if I had gone anywhere else.”

And next week, he will find out where his story will continue. 

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