Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Defensive back Fowler a pleasant find

August 16, 2003

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A former track standout, Rodney Fowler is speedy, yet Kansas football coach Mark Mangino is more impressed how fast Fowler signed.

"He was a good catch for us late," said Mangino of the sophomore defensive back, who signed with the Jayhawks in June out of Pasadena City College.

"We like to think that every year we can find one gem late," Mangino added. "That means we're recruiting the right way and recruiting hard."

Mangino now hopes Fowler's potential can carry over to the Division One level and help a secondary that allowed 216.2 passing yards a game.

But the 6-foot, 192-pound Fowler, who went to Pasadena to focus on track, hadn't planned on playing football this year -- especially at Kansas.

"Before Kansas, I didn't even know where it was on the map," Fowler said with a grin. "I wasn't sure if I was going to go to a D-I (school). But now, I mean, I'm glad I'm here."

So are the Jayhawks.

"He's shown a willingness to stick his face in there and make plays," KU secondary coach Clint Bowen said. "It looks like he's going to be a good pickup."

Especially considering the timing.

Rodney Fowler goes through drills at practice. The sophomore
defensive back signed with KU in June out of Pasadena City College.

Rodney Fowler goes through drills at practice. The sophomore defensive back signed with KU in June out of Pasadena City College.

Fowler qualified academically out of high school, but went to Pasadena to try to improve his skills as a sprinter.

"I wasn't actually going to Pasadena (just) to run track," Fowler said. "But I was more of a track guy at that point."

Fowler didn't run track last spring, instead concentrating on spring football.

"I wasn't getting talked to until the scouts started coming for spring ball, because they didn't realize I was a qualifier in high school," Fowler said.

Bowen, however, did and jumped in on such Pac-10 schools as Arizona, Arizona State and Washington.

Fowler visited KU in May and a month later signed a letter of intent after the official signing period ended. He took the place of Markeith Childress in KU's recruiting class. Childress, a Long Beach City College defensive back, met NCAA requirements for transfers -- but not KU's -- and wound up at Montana.

The Pasadena coaches really didn't want Fowler to leave quite yet.

"They hadn't told him," Bowen said, of Fowler being able to leave after his freshman year. "They wanted him for the fall. Obviously, he was one of their best secondary players. They wanted to try to get one more year out of him."

But Mangino noted that eventually those juco coaches chose what was best for the San Diego native.

"Sometimes the junior college coaches say, 'Hey he's a qualifier, but we want to keep him here another year. We've invested in him to, and he wants to stay here,'" Mangino said.

"And we say, 'OK that's fine, we don't want to do anything against your wishes.' But the coaches said he was a great kid, that he was ready for Division One ball at his junior college, and they weren't going to hold him back. They'd like to keep him, but they wouldn't hold him back."

Fowler was a cornerback in juco, but he has been switched to free safety at Kansas.

"He's making things interesting in the secondary," Bowen said. "The thing that's amazing about him is that he has good football instincts. He's one of those guys that understands football and can play without having to tell him every single thing. He's a great football player. He can run."

Running track is now a thing of the past for Fowler, however.

"I don't miss any of those workouts," he said with a laugh.

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