By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
August 28, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Spur safety Nate Sowers will be in an unusual position when he begins his senior season next weekend against Liberty. It will be the first time in his career that he will be in the same place for two straight years.
"Two camps in a row, anyway," he says.
Sowers came to West Virginia in 2005 as a Kennedy Award-winning quarterback. Sowers spent his redshirt and freshman seasons under center before making the switch to slot receiver in 2007. He appeared in 10 games at receiver that year, making one catch for 16 yards against Western Michigan.
Then he was shipped off to defense last year where he played in 12 games, making 20 tackles and intercepting a pass.
With the benefit of hindsight, Sowers admits that he probably should have made the move to defense a lot earlier. If he had, he knows his career would have probably been a lot further ahead right now.
"I might have done some things differently, but at the time, I made the best decision for what was ahead," Sowers said Thursday evening. "I wouldn't say that I have had any regrets. It's a journey and I've learned from it all and I'm trying to use all that I've learned and not only apply it to the field, but off the field as well."
Sowers, generously listed a 6-feet-1 but really closer to 6-feet, doesn't really fit the profile of a college quarterback. He has good speed, but not quite as explosive as some of the slot receivers in the program right now.
Safety, however, always seemed to be the natural position for him with his athletic ability, intelligence, thick body and the courage to stick his face into a blender. At those other positions, it appeared Sowers was simply trying to keep his head above water.
"Looking back I can definitely see that," he said. "Every spring or fall I was almost like a rookie starting a new position."
This year, Sowers has used the experience he got last year to catapult to the top of the depth chart at spur safety. Whether or not he remains there is in his hands.
"I know it doesn't really mean anything until the games start," Sowers said. "We'll see next week and as the season progresses. Hopefully I can stay there."
Also playing spur is the talented but often-injured Sidney Glover. Glover is versatile enough to play bandit as well.
"We've had some guys hurt that are probably going to be stepping in and sharing time," Sowers said. "We can roll the safeties in and out and keep us fresh.
"Sidney and Boogie (Allen) can play both positions," Sowers said. "They are versatile guys and hopefully we can keep a good rotation going out there. I think that is to our advantage to do that."
Coach Bill Stewart said yesterday that he intentionally ratcheted up the hitting during training camp this fall. Sowers has certainly noticed more head banging going on.
"It definitely was the most physical for me playing defense and taking on fullbacks at the position I play," he said. "When I first came here I played quarterback and you don't get touched any time."
Sowers thinks Stewart wanted to send the team a message - play tougher.
"I think some of it has to do with us coming out a little flat last year," Sowers said. "Speaking defensively, we were young. I think he's trying to make sure we come out firing right."
Sowers said the by-product of a physical camp is the bonding the players create, whether that be in the training room getting treatments alongside a buddy or the camaraderie formed while performing another tough drill.
"It's not only about getting a harder edge but when you are out there banging on each other every single day there is a certain type of bond that you have with each other," Sowers explained.
Consequently, he believes this year's team is much closer than some of the others he's been on.
"I don't if it's because I've been here a long time - it's my fifth year and I feel comfortable - but I feel much closer to these guys, and that's across the board," he said. "I'm not just talking safeties and the defensive side. I'm talking offense - everywhere. It seems like anywhere I go in the locker room I have a friend to talk to."
Now beginning his fifth year at WVU, Sowers took stock of his Mountaineer career.
"Your senior year you've been around. You know the ropes. You know what it's about and it's time to enjoy it all," he said.
"I like being around the guys and just meeting people that you never would have met in your life if you hadn't been in this situation," he said. "You do that in college, too, but you don't have the bond with a team like this."
As for all of the hitting this fall, Sowers said the players are now ready to go after different colored jerseys.
"We're ready to play," he said. "We've got a week of preparation for Liberty and we're ready to hit someone else."