By Jano Tantongco
Days after announcing plans to retire from his career in the National Football League, Stephen Bowen returned to his alma mater Half Hollow Hills High School West on Tuesday to pass along advice to the school’s current athletes, including Cameron Jordan, a junior and wide receiver on the Colts varsity football team.
“He’s been through what I’ve been through,” said Jordan, who is pursuing a collegiate football career. “I’m in his shoes when he was a high school kid.”
Jordan and Bowen met for the first time last year. The 32-year-old former pro who most-recently suited up for the New York Jets visited High School West for game. The pair later met again in March when Hills West’s basketball team played Baldwin for the Long Island championship. Jordan is also a member of the Colts, just like Bowen was before he graduated in 2002.
The Colts were defeated by Baldwin, but Bowen took Jordan aside after the game and said to him, “Just keep working hard.”
This has resonated with Jordan.
“That meant a lot to me. It touched heart,” he said. “I look up to him.”
Bowen said he’s watched Jordan’s game mature throughout his Hills West career.
“I’m just excited for him,” Bowen said. “The sky’s the limit for him. He really controls his own destiny.”
Bowen, who grew up in Wheatley Heights, announced his retirement from the NFL on June 1. He retired as a member of the Washington Redskins after signing a one-day contract with the organization. Along with the Jets, Bowen spent time with both the Redskins and Dallas Cowboys throughout his 10-year career in the NFL.
“I'm going to miss the camaraderie with my teammates. I just felt it was time for a new phase of life,” he said. “I’ve always dreamed of playing football for the National Football League. I never thought that it would actually happen.”
To those who might doubt the possibility, he added, “Never give up. And, whatever you do, work hard. Somebody’s going to notice. Hard work always pays off.”
Graduating from Hofstra University, Bowen went undrafted in 2006, but signed with the Cowboys after the NFL draft. Eventually he moved up to the team’s starting roster, enduring five seasons with Dallas. After the 2010 season, he was signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract with Redskins, joining the team as a starting right defensive end. He recorded career highs in tackles (58) and sacks (6) in 2011.
Injuries soon plagued the former Colt, however. He spent time on the injured reserve throughout the 2013 and 2014 season. When he hit free agency in 2015, Bowen signed with the New York Jets.
In all, bowen started 57 games in the NFL. He finishes his career with 12.5 sacks, 175 tackles and nine passes defensed.
Back in his days as a Colt, Bowen played on the varsity football squad under coach Kyle Madden.
“Even back then, I knew I had something special,” Madden said on Friday. “The best part about Stephen is that he’s just a very humble person. He still stays in contact with all his coaches. We all went to his wedding.”
Madden said Bowen regularly comes back to watch games, and speak with the young athletes.
“No words can describe how much Stephen means to me personally, [and] for both High School West and for Long Island.”
As a member of the Colts basketball team, Bowen played under head coach Bill Mitaritonna. On Friday, Mitaritonna congratulated the former pro for his “amazing career,” calling him a true “success story.”
“He was a really great kid to have. Always had great jokes. You could always pal around with him,” Mitaritonna said. “But when it came time to get on the court, he was all business.”
Bowen thanked his coaches, he said, “They helped me to figure out how good i really could be, and put that work ethic in myself and just became dedicated.”
Moving on from the field, Bowen said was set to begin his new career on Wednesday in the compliance sector at NFL headquarters in New York City. He’ll be managing aspects, such as making sure new cleats and jerseys are up to par.