Dominick Gravel/Montreal Alouettes
He’s seventh on the all-time sack list but John Bowman thinks he should be light-years ahead of the pack.
Well, maybe not light-years, but the veteran defensive end has confidence that if every play went his way, he’d be in four-digit territory.
“I’ve told this story many times, I should have 1,000 sacks but between quarterbacks throwing the ball away and/or double teams and/or pass interference calls, that’s stuff I can’t control,” he smiled, standing on the turf at Mosaic Stadium just moments after the Alouettes completed their final practice ahead of Saturday night’s contest against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“The only thing I can control is trying to beat the guy in front of me and hopefully the quarterback still has the ball.”
The ageless wonder that is John Bowman, who jokingly mentioned his ascending age a handful of times during our conversation, hasn’t taken a step back since deciding to come back for one final hurrah in the CFL.
Last October, he told CFL.ca’s Chris O’Leary that he was “98 per cent” finished with his playing career.
But that two per cent ended up being too strong for Bowman to ignore.
The six-foot-three, 250-pounder decided to strap on the pads for at least one more season. He had a conversation with Kavis Reed, who was general manager at the time, and said he felt good and wanted to come back for another year.
Bowman signed a two-year deal in the off-season and is having a stellar campaign for the Alouettes.
Just last week, the 37-year-old was named a CFL Shaw Top Performer after collecting five defensive tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in his team’s win over the BC Lions.
Not bad for what he calls a ‘old grumpy guy.’
“If I couldn’t play, I wouldn’t be out here,” Bowman said. ‘And that’s one thing that I told Kavis during the off-season and Mike Sherman, at the time, if I couldn’t play I wouldn’t come back. I’m happy I can still produce a little bit and help my team win a couple games.”
While his season stats are impressive – he’s tallied 30 defensive tackles and four sacks in 10 games – he’s also writing himself into the history books.
Bowman sits at 130 career sacks. If he adds another one on Saturday night, he’ll move into sixth, passing Vince Goldsmith (130.5) for that spot.
Moving up that list is a massive accomplishment for any player, but Bowman isn’t thinking too much about personal accolades. Instead, he’s shifting his focus to his opponent that week.
And that aforementioned focus has been noticed around the league from other players as well.
Roughriders linebacker Solomon Elimimian took notice of the intensity and drive that Bowman brings to the table when the pair were together during the off-season.
“His focus, his prep,” Elimimian said when asked about what makes Bowman able to last so long in the CFL. “I’ve spent some time with John during the CBA (negotations) so we’ve spent a lot of time together preparing for that. Just being around him, seeing how he carries himself as a professional. He’s always stretching, making sure his body is on point.
“And I think at a certain level has to be God-given. You start getting that age, you just have to have limber limbs and he has that. He’s a good player and he’s somebody that players respect. He’s certainly somebody that the team respects and it’s always good to see guys like him year in and year out playing good football.”
The task at hand that Bowman is zoned in on is the Roughriders, but especially Saskatchewan’s pivot Cody Fajardo as the pair goes head-to-head this weekend.
And just like Bowman is focused on Fajardo, the Riders signal caller is doing the same to the defensive end.
“He just understands the CFL game,” Fajardo said of Bowman. “He understands how to play defence in this league. He’s done it for so long and he’s obviously still got the talent to do it. Anytime you have a guy like that on the defence, who just understands the game and situations like that it makes it tough and I’m going to know where he’s lining up every time.”
The only other active player in the top 10 all-time sack leaders list is Charleston Hughes, who will not be playing in Saturday’s contest after a late announcement that he had been added to the one-game injured list after the team’s walkthrough on Friday.
Hughes sits eighth all-time, with 127 career sacks, just behind Bowman. And at 35-years-old, Hughes, much like Bowman, doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
The six-foot-one, 246-pounder has collected 38 defensive tackles and a league-leading 13 sacks on the season.
“He really is a team guy,” said Elimimian of his teammate. “He really understands football. His IQ for football is unbelievable. Whether it’s defensive line, linebackers or the backend, he’s always on point and he just brings a certain competitive nature to the group. Guys look at Charleston and see what he’s doing and there’s no excuses because he’s older than everybody and he’s still producing.”
Bowman also had high praise for Hughes.
“He’s a consistent pass rusher,” said Bowman. “He doesn’t get flustered by the chip blocks and the double teams and stuff like that. He just keeps his eyes on what he wants to do and that’s get to the quarterback.”
All eyes will be on Bowman on Saturday night in Regina, and if he himself can get to the quarterback, but Bowman’s got his eyes on the prize that’s handed out at the end of November instead.
“I heard about it,” he smiled when asked about moving up the all-time list. “I heard about it yesterday and it’s good but I’ve got something bigger in mind than being one place up on the sack chart.”