The running back situation for NIU football has been part of an ongoing evolution all season long.
With the loss of Jamal Womble, the injuries to Leighton Settle and Keith Harris Jr. and the eventual emergence of Akeem Daniels, one player has kept his nose down and done everything asked of him. His hard work may find fruition on the biggest stage in school history.
Redshirt sophomore Giorgio Bowers came to NIU this season as a transfer from Akron, but his eligibility and ability to get in was never a certainty. Bowers had initially committed to NIU out of high school, but decomitted and signed with Akron instead.
“I didn’t know I was gonna be able to get into NIU,” Bowers said. “Transferring from conference to conference, they don’t allow it. Went into JuCo for a semester, decided I was gonna come back here and work my way back to gaining a scholarship.”
That near loss of playing football and the uncertainty has really pushed Bowers to work even harder, and running backs coach Mike Uremovich knows that is a source of motivation for the back.
“I think any time you transfer, you go about it the second time, learning from some of the mistakes you made the first time, maybe some of the things you wish you would have done better,” Uremovich said. “I think the transfer made him really realize how much he loved the game of football and not being able to play for a semester really made that fire burn in him and [say], ‘Hey, I missed this game and if I get another chance I’m gonna be the best player I can be.’”
While the external motivation is evident, Bowers also possesses a strong source of internal motivation. As Uremovich notes, he is one of the hardest working players in the position group in all aspects of the game.
“He’s physical, he plays hard, and he’s really a student of the game,” Uremovich said. “You like coaching kids like him that care. He probably watches more film than anyone in our whole position group and really studies what it takes to be a good running back.”
While Bowers will take an increased role at running back behind Daniels for the Orange Bowl game, Bowers' value lies in multiple areas in the game, as he brings a reputation with him on special teams.
“He’s awesome on special teams,” said senior tight end Jason Schepler. “I know he’s had a couple big hits on kick-off this year. Every time kick-offs out, I like to watch him cause he races down there and gets big hits on dudes.”
One of those big hits was evident in the MAC Championship game when he up-ended a Kent State kick returner and in the process recorded a career-best three tackles in the game.
Bowers also offers a change of pace from Daniels at the tailback position, as Bowers admits he’s a more physical runner than Daniels, whereas Daniels brings more of a finesse style of run.
While Bowers may have the opportunity to get more carries, Uremovich only knows that NIU is looking for the most effective scenario they can and that they also will utilize players’ strengths.
“Giorgio’s a great blocker and a great downhill runner and that’s what we’ll use him as,”Uremovich said. “It depends on what is working for us on a given day. We have so many different personnel packages, if it’s going well he could play 30 plays, if some of the other stuff is going well he could play ten.”
No matter the situation in the game, whether it’s offense or special teams, Bowers brings a strong team mentality from his experience all year long, and knows that through his hard work he will be prepared for whatever is asked of him, even if it means carrying the ball in the most meaningful game of NIU football’s history.
“I always had the back-up role,” Bowers said. “If somebody goes down I come in and do what they ask me to do. I’m just gonna focus on what they ask me to do. That’s the main thing. It’s been like that every game, if they need me to do anything, that’s what I focus on. That’s always been my mentality.”