STILLWATER — Transfer quarterback Alan Bowman showed up in Stillwater last January and was assigned a locker. In that locker hung a Bob Fenimore jersey.
It wasn’t part of the welcome wagon.
The entire 2022 Cowboy team had been gifted a No. 55 Fenimore jersey. But the previous inhabitant of said locker didn’t think enough of Fenimore, the Oklahoma A&M star from the mid-1940s, to even take the shirt with him.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Bowman didn’t know much (any?) about Fenimore, but Bowman is the curious sort, befitting a 23-year-old with a University of Michigan master’s degree in business administration.
And soon enough, Bowman hatched a plan. When the quarterback job was his, and the Cowboys won, he’d honor Fenimore by wearing the jersey.
Took Bowman a while. He didn’t get the starting job until Sept. 23 at Iowa State, and the Cowboys lost in Ames. But on Oct. 5, OSU stunned Kansas State 29-21, and Bowman strolled into the interview room wearing that Fenimore 55.
“Being at two other colleges, it’s kind of tough to have loyalty,” said Bowman, who played at Texas Tech from 2018-20, then transferred to Michigan. “Kind of a cool way to pay respects to previous players.”
The next week after the Kansas game, there was Bowman in Terry Miller’s 43, in honor of the 1970s tailback who was inducted into OSU’s Ring of Honor that day.
A friend got him a Barry Sanders jersey, No. 21, to wear after the game at West Virginia.
Then Bowman was out of jerseys. So OSU football equipment coordinator Justin Williams came to the rescue.
Deep in the bowels of Boone Pickens Stadium, Williams kept a variety of old jerseys, some of them worn by all-time Cowboy heroes. Williams has been offering up four or five per week from which Bowman can choose, and after every victory is a vintage jersey that jogs the memories and strums the heartstrings of Cowboy loyalists.
Hart Lee Dykes’ 11 after Cincinnati. Josh Fields’ 13 after Bedlam. J.W. Walsh’s 4 after Houston. Zac Robinson’s 11 after Brigham Young.
“I think that is cool, to get former players and kind of bring their name back up in the spotlight,” said OSU guard Preston Wilson. “Just bring their name back up and honor those guys that have been here before us and laid the foundation before us.”
Bowman still is learning his OSU history. For instance, when complimented on his Robinson jersey, complete with Cotton Bowl patch, Bowman mentioned Robinson playing against Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning.
Uh, no. Fields quarterbacked against Manning. Robinson’s Cotton Bowl was against a different Mississippi team.
But no matter. Bowman’s fashion show is exquisite public relations. Popular with the fans, popular with teammates, popular with media, popular with the honorees themselves.
Alan Bowman’s OSU jersey tributes
Heck, Walsh is on the Cowboy staff and works with Bowman, as the quality control analyst under quarterback coach Tim Rattay. Maybe Mike Gundy’s No. 12 is next.
“He’s been really good,” Gundy said of Bowman. “He’s bought into our culture, he’s accepted Oklahoma State family. The jerseys and things he wears are his decision, I don’t think anybody’s told him to do that.
“He’s older, he gets it, he’s been around a lot of different coaches, been around successful people. Some of that is he’s smart enough to let that wear off on him and then be able to implement it in a new system and a new environment, which he came into.”
OSU sideline reporter Robert Allen has marveled at Bowman’s incessant positivity, and frankly, Bowman has had plenty of reasons for his attitude to go the other way.
Injured and benched despite some glowing games at Tech. Barely played in two seasons at Michigan. Came to OSU and was involved in a bizarre three-quarterback rotation, which included the coach’s son.
I mean, Bowman is not the most cursed football player of all time, but it’s not like showers of blessing have been dumped on his head.
And Bowman’s perseverance has paid off. He’s become a solid quarterback for the Cowboys. Not great. Not Brandon Weeden or Robinson; not Mason Rudolph or even Spencer Sanders.
But solid. Solid enough for the Cowboys to have won seven of their last eight games and land in the Big 12 Championship Game against Texas, on Saturday in Arlington, just down the road from his hometown of Grapevine.
“He’s got a lot of drive, and we knew from the beginning that he was going to come in and work his tail off,” Wilson said. “He was a guy that was disciplined and tough, and he was going to be a leader. He cared to get to know his players very quickly.
“He didn’t come and say, ‘I’m competing for QB1, this is the way I run, this is the way we do this and that.’ He didn’t bring anything from where he came from. He came in and said, ‘How do you guys do things around here? How do I adapt and how do I be involved very quickly and effectively?’ And that’s what he did.”
Has Bowman become so ingrained in Stillwater that he might try to return for a seventh season? There’s talk that Bowman could apply for a medical redshirt, since his 2019 season was limited to three games by a shoulder injury, and he barely played at Michigan.
“I think it’s a possibility,” Bowman said Saturday night, wearing the Robinson jersey after a 40-34, double-overtime victory over BYU. “I’m not exactly focused on that now. Just kind of looking forward to next week, then we’ll find out what happens after that and before the bowl game.”
Gundy said he hasn’t talked to Bowman about returning and said that’s completely normal. Gundy admits that he’s not much of a conversationalist. He said next week is the designated time for discussions about everyone’s future.
Gundy didn’t reveal his 2024 quarterback plans. Hit the portal again? Go with son Gunnar or Garret Rangel? Turn to true freshman Zane Flores, who has impressed in his year on campus.
Or bring back the Michigan MBA, who could have grown disgusted not just with OSU, but the entire sport, yet who instead embraced Stillwater and a bunch of players he never met and in some cases never even saw play.
“It’s been crazy,” Bowman said. “The whirlwind of college football. Six years, three different schools. Could not be happier to be in Stillwater.
“This obviously is the best school I’ve been at. Just the love and support’s been amazing. Things didn’t work out exactly as planned. But to be in the situation we’re in is pretty awesome.”
And if the Cowboys happen to beat Texas, Bowman will pop up in another vintage jersey. Gundy’s? Weeden’s? Rusty Hilger’s? Jack Hartman’s, be still my heart?
Doesn’t matter. The Posse will be thrilled, not by those old-time uniforms, but by Alan Bowman’s No. 7.