This post is part of a continuing series in which we break down 13 2011 NFL Draft prospects - our Baker's Dozen - that should interest the Buffalo Bills. Previous character scouting reports: WR Julio Jones, DT Nick Fairley, DT Marcell Dareus.
Coming out of high school, Da'Quan Bowers was the nation's top recruit. His talent is immense. He was arguably college football's most feared defender as a junior in 2010, when he recorded 15.5 sacks to lead the nation. It's not often that you see a player of Bowers' pedigree and production rated as low as No. 10 on anyone's draft board, but that's exactly where the venerable Mike Mayock (NFL Network) has him.
"I boxed him in here for a reason," Mayock said of Bowers. "He has more ability than No. 10, but he's a one-year wonder. He had 15.5 sacks last season, and the two years before that he only had four combined. I want to know why."
Most attribute the "why" to rapid maturation on Bowers' part following a year full of tragedy for the 21-year-old.
Growing up, and even through high school and his first two years of college, Bowers split his attention between two passions: football and music. While he cut corners in the gym and in the film room early in his college career, he was also perfectly willing to leave campus to perform with his father's music group, the Legendary Singing Stars, as a guitarist.
During the 2009 season, when Bowers was just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential on the football field, ESPN spoke with Bowers and his father, Dennis, about the then-sophomore's musical prowess. Less than a year later, his father was dead.
Dennis Bowers collapsed prior to a performance in August of 2010, and was immediately rushed to the hospital. Stabilized, Da'Quan drove two hours from Clemson's campus to be by his father's side, and the two reportedly talked throughout that night. The next morning, Dennis' condition suddenly worsened, and he passed away soon thereafter.
Months earlier, following the close of Bowers' sophomore season at Clemson - and right around the time that his friend and former teammate, Gaines Adams, passed away suddenly due to an undiagnosed enlarged heart - Dennis Bowers had sat his son down for a heart-to-heart about his son's future.
"He told me to stop playing around," Bowers said at the time. "Stop being a kid. Be a man."
By the time his father had passed away - fueled by his words and Adams' passing - Bowers had announced his intention to end his performances with his father's musical group so that he could focus on football. He'd also hit the weight room hard, dropping 20 pounds in advance of Clemson's 2010 campaign. His father passed away in August. Bowers exploded onto the scene on the football field.
Now, Bowers is playing to fulfill not only his own dreams, but the dreams of his late friend and his late father.
"It was my father's dream to play in the NFL, and I can live his dream," Bowers said. "Gaines Adams didn't have the career he wanted before his passing, so I can let his dream live in my mine. I had the opportunity right now, and you're not promised that opportunity ever again in life, so I had to take it."
Bowers talked about his father's passing and his maturation process in a pre-draft interview with NFL.com.