WINNIPEG -- Marcellus Bowman didn’t get the memo.
An undrafted football player straight out of a U.S. college is supposed to come up to Canada, spend 21 days and 20 nights at lovely Canad Inns Polo Park and then get a free plane ticket home.
There’s a term for guys like Bowman. TCF. Training camp fodder.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the 6-foot-2, 225-pound weak-side linebacker getting called into GM Joe Mack’s office and choosing aisle or window. He not only earned a job with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, he got a starting role to boot.
So Mr. Bowman, just how did you pull it off?
“First of all, I understood my role as an import,” Bowman said Saturday after the Bombers practised for the first time since Thursday’s final cuts. “You come in, and your chances are slim. So knowing that information, to destroy that whole notion of me going home, I set my goal as high as possible so that if I did fall I would at least be second string. That was my thought process.”
It worked, and now he’s living on his own for the first time. In other words, he’s just like any other college grad who is starting a new job this week. The only catch is his first day will be in front of nearly 30,000 people on Friday night at Canad Inns Stadium.
That scenario must not frighten him, because he worked his tail off to make it happen.
“I just focused more than I ever focused before,” said Bowman, who was passed over in April’s NFL draft but attended Denver Broncos rookie camp in May. “This is a professional business, so it requires an effort that is second to none. I understood that, and that was my motivation.
“I focused a lot in films, on the field and in the hotel. I’m not a big person for going out, so I just sat there and made the most of my time and looked at the playbook.”
Bowman made it impossible for the coaching staff to cut him, according to head coach Paul LaPolice.
Bowman played safety in college and the Bombers were going to line him up at strong-side linebacker, but they moved him over to the weak side in the early stages of camp.
None of it fazed him.
“He just kept making plays, and he got better every day,” LaPolice said. “Those are the type of guys who stick around. I’ve been around guys like that. Weston Dressler did that in Saskatchewan. Michael Jenkins in Toronto did that.
“Sometimes you have certain rookies who jump out at you, and he did that.”
After learning on Thursday he had made the club, Bowman realized his adult life had officially begun. It means the 23-year-old won’t be able to rely on his mom, Vanessa Austin, as much as he used to.
“She’s giving me advice, but I like the way she’s doing it,” he said. “She’s not taking it step by step. She’s giving me enough advice to make me think. She puts the dots there, and I connect them. I can appreciate that.”
Bowman had to go apartment hunting in Winnipeg — “That might’ve been harder than the playbook. I never had to do that.” — and stock up on one item in particular.
“I’m going to set a bunch of alarm clocks,” he said. “That’s all I know, because I won’t have any of my teammates or roommates to wake me up. So I have about 15 alarm clocks in my little apartment.
“I’m a pretty good sleeper. I get my sleep. So I want to make sure that doesn’t become the end of me.”
Something else that won’t kill Bowman’s career? Complacency.
“I’m not content by any means,” he said. “I’m definitely happy that I made the team, but this is not by any means the end of the road. If anything, it’s just the beginning of a more difficult one.
“So I’m going to approach it the same way I did when I came in during our rookie camp and just grind, keep doing it from now until when it starts snowing.”