"Every time you lose, a part of you dies. And you can never get it back."
These words are from someone with a desire to win. Words from someone who wants to have a huge impact in the Redskin secondary this upcoming season. These are the words of the Redskins new free safety, Matthew (Matt) Sean Bowen, acquired from the Green Bay Packers on March 11, 2003 to replace out-going safety Sam Shade.
A journalism and mass communications major at Iowa, Matt wrote these words in a weekly column for The Daily Iowan, the student newspaper, back in September 1998. Matt wrote for a newspaper on the Iowa campus up until his senior year. "I just made fun of all my friends," Bowen says with a laugh. "It was all about what we did at dinner time, who was the worst dancer, stuff like that." Creative writing (essays and poetry) remain one of Matt's hobbies to this very day, along with reading novels by Stephen Hunter and John Sanford.
Born in Glen Ellyn, Ill., a suburb of about 30,000, Matt played as quarterback at Glenbard West High School where he was team captain and most valuable player, passing for 1,533 yards and 17 touchdowns, and gaining 1,329 yards with 17 scores on the ground in his final season. An extremely versatile football player, Matt was recruited to Iowa as a quarterback but eventually became a strong safety for the team just before spring practice in 1997. He played all 12 games that year, mostly as a 5th defensive back in passing situations.
In his junior year, he led Iowa with 92 tackles (four tackles behind the line of scrimmage); intercepted two passes, broke up two others, and forced a fumble while gaining a reputation as one of the most ferocious hitter on the team. In his senior year, he led the team with 92 tackles (57 solo) and intercepted 2 passes, while starting every game at strong safety and becoming one of the fastest players in the Iowa program.
Then, Matt traded in his prose for the pros.
In 2000, Matt was drafted in the 6th round by the St. Louis Rams (probably dropping down that far not because of lack of talent but rather because Iowa, to be candid, wasn't a very good football team). When he was drafted, Matt was known considered to be an extremely gifted athlete with impressive size, raw power and blazing speed. An aggressive hitter, who throws his body around willingly, Matt was known to find the ball and react quickly in run support.
In his rookie season with the Rams, Matt played all 16 games and started a strong safety for two games that year, becoming an outstanding player on special teams (he led the team with 21 special teams' tackles). Because of his strong play, Matt won the Carroll Rosenbloom Memorial Award as the team's rookie of the year that year.
Unfortunately for Matt, he would not enjoy as much success in his second year. In his first game against the Eagles, Matt broke his right foot and was eventually placed on injured reserve. He was later waived off of injured reserve on November 16th.
Enter the Green Bay Packers.
Matt joined the Packers in Week 12 (on November 30, 2001) and, although he was inactive for that first game, he played the last five games of that season and two playoff games...proving to be one of the Packers more effective special teams performers. Known as having "one of the best work habits of anybody" at Green Bay, according to assistant head coach, Bob Slowik, Matt was also considered to be quite a relentless player on the field.
Entering the 2002 season, Matt's stock in Green Bay rose dramatically, especially considering that their secondary was decimated by injuries early on. One of Matt's strong supporters in Green Bay, Slowik continued, "[Matt's] got a great attitude. He's a hustler. He's strong, tough and fast.... we're not talking about some guy with mediocre speed or something like that."
Fortunately for Redskin fans, Washington officials also took note of Matt's skills and on March 4th, 2003, signed Bowen to a 4-year offer sheet worth $6 million including a $1.6 million signing bonus. One week later, on March 11, 2003, with Green Bay electing not to match the Redskin's offer sheet, Bowen officially became a Redskin. Bowen is regarded as a considerable upgrade at free safety and, having played 38 games with 8 starts, 63 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, and nine passes defended, Matt will go into training camp as the starter at that position.
When his NFL career is over, Matt notes that "one of my dreams is to be an author." Hopefully, for the Washington Redskins faithful, we won't be seeing any novels by Bowen on the bookstore shelves for quite some time.