The last time the Alouettes slipped under .500, Coach Marc Trestman was able to turn his debut season around and take his team 2-3 club to win 9 of its next 11 en route to a 2008 Grey Cup appearance.
After missing the first three games of the season with an injury, John Bowman has bounced back nicely, collecting 5 tackles and 1 sack in two games.
The last time the Montreal Alouettes slipped under .500, head coach Marc Trestman – just five games into his debut season – was able to orchestrate a resounding comeback.
Beginning with a 40-33 win over the Tiger-Cats in Week 6 that season, the Als went on to win nine of their next 11 games, en-route to earning a spot in the 96th Grey Cup.
This year, however, the alarming 162 points surrendered by the Montreal defence through the first five games is the worst Alouette performance since the 1982 season – a season where the Als fell to a dismal 2-14.
Fortunately for the Als, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Thankfully that could be John Bowman’s specialty.
After being carved up by Ricky Ray in the first half last week, the defence flexed its muscle in the second half, punctuated by Bowman’s first quarterback sack celebration of the season. He doubled over at the waist, then through his arms up high, with a roar to the Percival Molson Stadium crowd.
The sack was a long time coming, his first since Week 17 of last season, a four-game drought including a painful loss to Hamilton in the playoffs and a humbling loss to the Tiger-Cats two weeks ago in the injury-delayed regular season debut for the seven-year vet.
“I have some symptoms but it's about powering through it, letting my teammates know I'm there fighting with them,” Bowman says of his recovery from pre-season knee trouble.
“Losing sucks. It sucks to lose any game. Defensively we played better, but they (the Argos) got off on us early. We told the offence it was our fault in the first half and we'll be better. We just manned up and stood our ground in the second half."
The –foot-3, 250-pound end has been manning up all his life.
“CPS (Child Protective Services) came to our house and took eight of us from a one-bedroom apartment,” the Brooklyn native recalls of his upbringing.
“We were sleeping on the floor, the couch, walking to church to get food. We always had something, even if it was a slice of toast.”
“Prostitution, crack, alcohol...I don’t remember ever meeting anyone’s dad when I was young.”
John and his twin brother Charles were running the streets by age 10. Seemed like the best option to escape the confines of five brothers and sisters and three cousins from his drug-addicted Mom’s twin sister and friends, who gladly parked their kids.
“Everyone on the street was rolling with the gangs,” says Bowman, who only met his father after he started playing football in high school. “We were guilty by association and started on the wrong path early, but never got arrested...we never got caught.”
Miraculously, John’s aunt Robin took in the troubled boys. The Bowman twins had a fresh start with a Fresh Prince-style twist. From the mean streets of “Crooklyn” to a “Pleasantville” setting in North Carolina, the intervention would be more dramatic than a forced fumble.
“There was a swimming pool in the backyard, acres to mow, maybe five streetlights in all of Rockingham,” the two-time CFL All-star and 2011 CFLPA All-star recalls.
But when it came to football, John was hardly “The Natural.” His welfare mom and vanishing dad were not about to register him for Pop Warner. His best sport was the pickup handball of the Brooklyn back alleys and streets.
“I tried out in Grade 10 at tight end. I got hit and thought ‘Oh no, this is NOT my sport.’”
He returned to basketball in Grade 11, but the next year his coach wouldn’t let him play unless he tried out once more for football. He played tight end again but one game he was forced to play defensive end for one play. A sack for a loss of 15 yards.
Rick Moffat is the Voice of the Montreal Alouettes on CJAD 800. He works alongside former CFLers Ed Philion and Dave Mudge. Moffat's first attended Grey Cup was as a fan in '77 - the infamous Tony Proudfoot "Staple Game". Rick is proud to say he had his first beer at an Als' game during the Marv Levy Era. Follow Rick on Twitter @RickMoffat.
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