WEATHERFORD, Okla. —
Tanner Bowman’s life changed forever on Nov. 25, 2011.
His mother, Lori, was killed in a two-car accident in on Oklahoma 132 just north of Coal Road in Grant County while coming home from a Black Friday shopping trip.
Bowman, then 14, was a passenger in the car and suffered a broken femur, a broken wrist, a collapsed lung, a couple of broken ribs and a hip fracture.
However, out of this tragedy would come triumph.
Two years and five days later, Bowman would rush for 112 yards and two touchdowns in Cherokee’s 42-6 win over Shattuck in the Class C state semifinals, putting the Chiefs in the championship game for the second time in four years.
He felt his mother’s spirit was with him, giving him strength and confidence.
“I know my mom was out here playing with me,’’ Bowman said. “I know I have my guardian angel out here looking out for me. There’s nothing better than knowing that she is next to me.’’
Bowman never lost his faith, even sitting in a hospital room knowing his football and basketball career could be over.
“God put in me to use mom as a motivation to get back to where I am now,’’ he said.
This past Thanksgiving, he was grateful first and foremost for just being alive, let alone quarterbacking an 11-0 Class C state finals team.
“I thank God every day for what he’s blessed me with,’’ he said. “I have so much to be thankful for. I was one of the lucky ones. God gave me a second chance and I’m so thankful for that.’’
He thinks of his mother and close friend Noel Gonzales, who lost his life in an unrelated accident a few years ago.
“I play for her and I play for my friend Noel,’’ he said. “I go out there and play as hard as I can for those two.’’
It gave him a different perspective on football.
“It gives you a whole new opinion on life,’’ Bowman said. “It’s one of those things that you have to put the work in and take advantage of the opportunities that some of those people don’t have the opportunities you have.’’
He didn’t do it on his own.
His father, Don and sister, Heather, gave him both emotional and loving support. So did the town of Cherokee, which seemed to converge at Milam Stadium on Saturday.
“The whole community of Cherokee just surrounded us with loving arms,’’ he said “I’m blessed to live in Cherokee. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“The whole town was here today (Saturday). We have the best fans in the state. I love watching them come out here in full force. It’s just reassuring to see them all go crazy.’’
They had plenty to go crazy about. Tanner Ducotey ran for 239 yards and two scores. Fullback Alex Castro scored twice as Cherokee rolled up 452 yards rushing.
The Chiefs scored 28 unanswered points in the second half.
“We got a lot of good blocks up front,’’ said Bowman who had scoring runs of four and 26 yards. “I found a crease and took advantage of the great lineman we have. I just shot up the middle and got out there.
“Coach (Bryce Schanbacher) said at halftime (with a 14-6 lead) we had to control the ball and play mistake-free and that’s what we did.’’
Bowman and his teammates have been wearing wrist bands that read “earn it.’’ They also had been motivated by a disappointing 24-20 loss to Forgan in last year’s semifinals.
“It’s the best feeling,’’ Bowman said. “It’s a dream come true. I’ve looked forward to this ever since I was a little kid. I’m finally realizing a dream. We got some redemption, but it’s not over yet.’’
Schanbacher, with enthusiasm, was telling his team the same thing. Winning the semifinals is good. Winning the championship is even better.
“It feels a heck of a lot better than last year,’’ he said, “but we’re not done. We have one more goal to go for. We find motivation in doing the little things it takes to win.’’
Some of his teammates found motivation by getting Mohawks.
“Those guys tried to talk me into it, but I couldn’t go for it,’’ he said with a chuckle.
He’s smiling. His mother was no doubt looking down with a smile as well.
“It’s a fun game,’’ he said. “It’s what I live for, it’s why I play the game.’’
At 16, Tanner Bowman is teaching all of us how to live life.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.