STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - As expected, Penn State's Navorro Bowman excelled in the physical challenges associated with yesterday's annual Lift for Life event that raised funds for the Kidney Cancer Association.
Bowman, an athletic and hard-hitting linebacker, now hopes to maneuver past off-the-field temptations and obstacles just as easily. In late April, the junior linebacker was sentenced to an additional 12 months of probation after he admitted to smoking marijuana.
Bowman already was on probation after pleading guilty in May 2008 to disorderly conduct in connection with a campus fight the previous fall. He also had been ordered to complete 100 hours of community service.
Following the 11-exercise competition at Holuba Hall, the 6-foot-1, 230-pounder reflected on what he has learned from his brushes with the law and being in head coach Joe Paterno's doghouse.
"It's about growing up and realizing what's right and what's wrong," he said. "Sure, the things that happened off the field make me look at things a little closer and make more right choices. A mistake is a mistake, and I own up to what I did. I haven't run from it.
"It opened my eyes a lot. I do appreciate where I'm at and how special it is for me to be where I'm at now. I just plan on doing what I got to do from here on out."
Last season, Bowman notched a team-best 106 tackles, with 61 solo stops and 45 assists, and earned first team-team all-Big Ten Conference honors while helping lead the Nittany Lions to an 11-2 record and a Rose Bowl appearance.
The 21-year-old from District Heights, Md., did not play in the team's Blue-White scrimmage three months ago. Paterno has yet to make an official statement about a possible punishment or suspension for a player projected to one day play in the NFL.
In April, the 82-year-old coach said, "I don't want to overact. He's been a pretty good kid. On the other hand, he's got to solve his problem."
Bowman's struggles may have something to do with recent personal issues. In June 2008, his father, Hillard, died unexpectedly from a blood clot. In December, Nick Lynch, his coach at Suitland High and a mentor, died in a two-car collision.
"Navorro is a great kid, a hard-working guy, he's always pushing us," said fellow linebacker and senior team leader Sean Lee, who missed last season with a knee injury. "He understands what his priorities are now. I think everybody on the team respects him very much."
Bowman will have to stay on the straight and narrow in State College without one of his best friends. Aaron Maybin, a defensive end who had 12 sacks last season, left college early and was selected No. 11 overall by the Buffalo Bills in the NFL draft.
"He made his choice to pursue his dream," Bowman said. "He's continuing to move forward, trying to get to the top. I wish him the best, talk to him a lot. Hopefully, I'll be where he's at one day."
At linebacker, Bowman and Lee are expected to make up one of college football's top one-two punches. "We feed off each other every single day, working out together and playing on the field," Bowman said.
Senior Jared Odrick, a 6-5, 305-pound defensive tackle, was irked at the continued talk of recent Penn State transgressions.
"That off-the-field stuff is in the past," he said.
Bowman has "had his head on straight for a while now. If people want to keep bringing it up, let them keep bringing it up."