Tanner Bowles grew up surrounded by faith and football, and though football now takes up a lot of his time, faith remains a priority.
The Glasgow, Kentucky, native is an offensive lineman for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. The redshirt junior is described as a valuable backup who can play multiple spots on the offensive line. He has seen playing time in all of Bama’s games this season.
It’s a dream come true for the young man who started playing football as a child and decided he wanted to play for Alabama during a moment of sibling rivalry with his older brother, Hunter.
“The first [Alabama game] I saw was actually the National Championship against Texas (in 2010),” Bowles recalled. “My brother originally grew up a Texas fan; his best friend was an Alabama fan. Being the little brother, I wanted to root against my brother. I was 8 years old watching the game, and all I could think about was, ‘I hope Alabama beats Texas just so he’s upset.’
Hunter Bowles went on to graduate from the University of Louisville, but Tanner Bowles remained an Alabama fan.
“Ever since that game … working in this path to make it to the college level, the school that I always thought about playing for was the University of Alabama,” he said.
That drive to one-up his brother led to excelling on Glasgow High School’s football team and becoming one of the top recruits in Kentucky his senior year. And his brother was one of the first people Bowles told when he heard from Alabama.
“I can remember the day I got the phone call that I was getting a scholarship offer,” he said. “I told my brother through text. He said the way I worded the text, he knew it was the University of Alabama. I didn’t even tell him the school, I just said ‘Guess what?’ in all caps, and he knew exactly.
“It was something I always worked for and something I was able to achieve.”
During the years that Bowles trained toward the goal of playing for Alabama, he went to church with his family. However, it wasn’t until he met coach Gary Cramer, the UA football program’s life coach, that he recognized he needed a personal relationship with Jesus.
“Once I got to college and started making a relationship with coach Cramer, I got invited to X-Factor, which is a program to prepare college students for their opportunities to impact someone else’s life in faith,” Bowles said.
“We were sitting in one of the meetings, and he read [from Scripture] … I think it was Romans 2:12. It kind of struck me. It really was the final thing to open up my eyes to give my life to Christ and to not take [salvation] for granted,” he said.
One of the ways Bowles does that is through participation in the weekly meetings of UA’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Another way is through missions. Bowles recently went on a FCA trip to Costa Rica, after having to wait two years from the original travel date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He had planned to go to Germany for another missions trip this past March but couldn’t go due to the situation in that area of the world.
“Finally we got to May, and I was able to go on that trip [to Costa Rica],” he said. “I really enjoyed it. It was my first time out of the country, away from Americanized life. So getting to see the culture and the adversity that the people in Costa Rica were going through was an eye-opener — to be thankful for what I have, for the opportunities that I’ve had in my life that some people don’t have.
“It was awesome getting to talk to the pastor there who said for 27 years of his life, he didn’t believe in God. But his mother on her deathbed was the one who turned him around … convinced him she believed God had great things [in store for] his life. He became a pastor, and he still struggles. He goes through a lot of things, but he’s thankful for what he has, even though it may not be the same blessings as we have. It was a huge eye-opener and something I would love to do again,” he added.
In the past, Bowles turned to his faith and asked for God’s help only when life wasn’t going as planned. He had the mindset that he had single-handedly earned what he has.
Bowles said he feels that during high school he did not thank God enough for the opportunities he was blessed with. “I worked on it,” he continued, “and I’m doing a better job at being thankful every day for all the opportunities.”
Bowles is also learning that faith is all or nothing.
“(Regarding faith) we kind of dip our toes in here and there. … We might take this path, but as soon as the doors are closed, what are we going to do away from the public? Once I heard Romans 12:1, I was reminded that I’m on this earth to please Him — to do things through Him.”
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