CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. — Lynn Bowden, minutes after a shooting struggle in the Ohio-Kentucky All-Star Basketball Game, was greeted by a young Kentucky fan with an autograph request.
The boy wore a blue Kentucky football jersey, and Bowden signed across the number on the front — No. 1.
It’s a familiar figure for Bowden. Although he played in an all-star basketball game on Saturday, he’s the top-ranked football signee in Kentucky’s 2017 class. Recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow, who led the charge for Bowden, said he was the best player in Ohio.
His high school football coach, Steve Arnold, told SEC Country that Bowden is the best player to come through Youngstown’s Warren Harding High School. Arnold has been at Harding almost 30 years and has seen the likes of Maurice Clarett, Mario Manningham and Daniel “Boom” Herron. Arnold said Bowden is at the “top” of that class.
“When you account for 58 touchdowns your senior year you automatically get put in that company,” Andy Vlajkovich, Bowden’s basketball coach, said after the game Saturday. “He electrified the town. Friday night was like, over/under on what Bowden was going to do.”
So, being No. 1 is nothing new for Bowden. He’ll enroll at Kentucky this fall with more hype than any of his incoming teammates. Bowden is expected to play right away. Coach Mark Stoops said that could include slot receiver, running back and quarterback.
“I can do it all,” Bowden said. “Special teams, offense, defense. Whatever. Do it in my sleep for real.”
Bowden said receivers coach Lamar Thomas will be his positional coach, but he said a less defined “playmaker and just get the ball in my hands” role was part of the recruiting pitch.
Despite Bowden’s assuredness, Vlajkovich said there’s an equal level of competitiveness.
“He’s almost an old-school kid,” Vlajkovich said. “A lot of the things coaches complain about kids these days — they’re not competitive — Lynn’s one of the most competitive kids. He competes in gym class, he competes in what a lot of kids think are meaningless events.”
Vlajkovich said Bowden has been the “it” guy in Youngstown going back to his middle school days. The hype carried over into high school. Bowden led Warren Harding to the Division II, Region 5 final game in his senior year. Harding lost 24-21, but Bowden accounted for all three scores, including a 73-yard touchdown run.
Bowden was ranked a top-200 national recruit and the No. 4 athlete in the country, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He had reported offers from Big Ten schools Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska in addition to Kentucky and several others.
And then Ohio State made a late offer.
“They tried to come in the day after I committed,” Bowden explained on Saturday. “That’s not the place for me. I wish them well. Good luck to them. I’m gonna ball down here in Kentucky.”
And that’s where he’ll be one of the most anticipated players in the Stoops era. Hype around Bowden often involves calling him the next (fill in the blank).
“It’s good to be compared to somebody, but the type of person I am — I’m me,” Bowden said. “I can only be me.”