Perhaps down the road, the Notre Dame coaching staff will hope Bennie Fowler listens to that same friend about what college to attend.
That friend is Detroit (Mich.) Country Day teammate, and Irish signee Jonas Gray.
“He was just on the basketball team with me, and the track team, we run the 4X100 together, and he saw I had pretty good speed, and he knew I had a good vertical from basketball,” Fowler explained. “And he knew about me playing football when I was younger, and he convinced me to come out for the team. I missed training camp and everything, but a week before the season started, I made the decision to play.”
Looks like that decision is going to pay life dividends for Fowler, who hadn’t played organized ball since middle school.
Not even a blip on the recruiting radar before the season, the 6-foot-1 ½, 185-pound receiver is garnering a lot of interest. Besides Notre Dame, Fowler is hearing from Michigan State, Penn State, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, Tennessee, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Buffalo. With the speedy playmaker’s highlight tape beginning to make the rounds, more love will likely be coming in soon for the class of 2009 prospect. As of now, no program has offered.
“Right now, I want to be a football player in college,” Fowler said. He has clocked a 10.38 in the 100-meter dash this spring, which is currently the fastest time in the state heading into the postseason. “With track, if they want me do that. and I go play football somewhere, I’d love to do that too.”
It didn’t take long for Detroit Country Day head coach Dan MacLean to realize he had some more help at receiver.
“He did a lot of good things in practice,” MacLean said. “In our first game he caught a couple deep passes. “We execute that, we call it Boise here, that hook-and-latter play, we executed it several times during the year and he was one of the main ingredients.”
It was a hook-and-latter play to Fowler in the state semifinals, that sent the Yellowjackets to the state title game. Fowler took what was around a 50-yard gain to the house in a 37-30 victory over previously unbeaten Zeeland West.
On the season, Fowler had roughly 15 catches for 300 yards and five touchdowns. He broke his collarbone in the seventh game of the season, but returned to be one of the heroes against Zeeland West.
“I carried a couple reverses , not for big gains, for like 25 yards or so,” Fowler said.
“He’s and explosive player, and has the talent to do a lot of things,” MacLean said. “He is an explosive leaper.”
Last year, Fowler long jumped 21 feet, seven inches to finish third in the state. He also ran a leg on the 400-meter relay team with Gray that finished second.
Notre Dame assistant coach Corwin Brown dropped by the school last week, and attended Fowler’s track meet. Fowler ran a 10.5 in the 100. He has also long jumped over 22 feet this year.
“He liked him,” MacLean said of Brown. “I could tell he was excited. He text me from the track meet with his times. He called me and text me because I wasn’t there. He’s a big kid. A great looking kid. He is a guy that’s going to get your attention.”
Brown has called MacLean a couple times since visiting.
Notre Dame certainly has Fowler’s attention as well. He saw the campus for the first time at a junior day in February. It’s the only college visit Fowler has made thus far.
“I saw the campus, and saw the facilities, and I liked it a lot,” he said. “They have good academics, and that’s one of my top schools.
“I hope they offer. It’s a really nice school.”
Now that Fowler has committed himself to football, his off-season has changed completely. He is shooting less baskets.
“I’m in the weight room a lot more,” Fowler said. “Everyday, I catch with our new quarterback. I look at film of what I did last year and what I need to improve on.”
Because of his late start in the game, Fowler knows he needs to get out and let colleges see him and evaluate him. Right now, he is going to three camps in June.
“On the 8th, I’m going to Central. On the 16th, I’ll be going to Notre Dame. I think on the 20th, I’m going to Michigan State.”
Fowler hopes to have the offers he wants soon, so he can make a verbal commitment by November.
“I’m looking for a place with good academics, a place for me where I can produce, help the team out,” Fowler explained. “They got to have a good coaching staff and good overall people around. A nice environment.”
Gray’s already begun to fill Fowler in on Notre Dame.
“He talks about the opportunity there. He likes the people up there and if not football at a higher level, you always have a good education you can get from Notre Dame.”