R.J. Bowers, Steelers Running Back, 2001
First, can you let readers know what you have been doing with yourself since your time in the NFL?
Just trying to make a living like everyone else. I have two sons, Jaden (9) and Carson (6), a daughter named Sophia (newborn) and a stepson Ryan (9).
Coming out of Division III Grove City in 2000, you broke eight NCAA all-division records including all-time leading rusher and scorer. What were your expectations in terms of an NFL career after all of that success?
Honestly I was just hoping to make a team. It had been a dream of mine to play in the NFL since I was six.
You also played professional baseball for the Houston Astros organization for six years before playing college football. Which sport did you prefer most, and why?
I always liked football better. I hate to fail and in baseball the best fail seven out of ten times at the plate. I never dealt real well with that. In football you can get stopped for no gain then take the next carry to the house for 70 yards and still be averaging 35 yards per carry.
How do you think your baseball experience helped you in football?
I failed at baseball by never making it to the “Big Leagues.” I was given a second opportunity that most don’t get and I made sure I did everything I could to make the most of it.
How did you end up as a free agent playing for your hometown team, the Steelers, and how exciting was that for you?
I started out with the Carolina Panthers and was released. Pittsburgh signed me to the practice squad and fortunately was activated later that year. It was an awesome experience!
Who helped take you under their wing as a rookie and helped you adjust to the NFL – both on and off the field – and how did they do so? Any examples?
Not one person in particular…we were truly a team in all meanings of the word. I hung out with John Witman most, but Jerome, Fu, Kreider, Amos…we all helped each other.
Even the guys on defense, Porter, Earl Holmes, Lee Flowers…just all quality people.
What was your biggest adjustment from college to the NFL and how did you work on making that adjustment?
The speed of the game and assignments. You think and you are lost. You have to know your opponent better than you know yourself to be successful at that level. A lot of things take place pre-snap.
In college I just ran the ball.
What was your role on that 2001 Steelers team and how did you adjust to playing both fullback and halfback in the NFL?
My role was basically to do whatever was asked of me. When on the practice squad I wanted to give the defense the best look I could. Playing fullback was a big adjustment for me…when you are used to running away from people as a running back, then having to find someone to hit it is quite different.
Who were some of the biggest characters on that Steelers team – any examples of the humor/hijinks from the players?
No one really pops out…just a lot of great guys.
What prompted your move from Pittsburgh to Cleveland in 2002 – and how difficult of an adjustment was that for you?
The drafting of Verron Haynes I believe prompted my exit. The NFL is a business. The transition was different, not difficult.
From my perspective it was employment, from my families perspective it was difficult. My brother Steve loves the Steelers and when we would play the Steelers he would tell me he hopes I have a career day but also hopes we lose.
Who were some of the toughest players you faced a a football player – both in practices and on game days – and what made them so?
Basically the whole Steeler defense everyday in practice in 2001. That was a great TEAM.
What are your favorite memories of your time in Pittsburgh and what made them so?
Scoring my first NFL TD on that 21 yard run against the Browns is something I will never forget. Also great teammates and the best fans in the NFL.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I would like to thank them all for their support!