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Als rush-end John Bowman continues to age gracefully

At age 37, John Bowman claimed he doesn’t have the body of a Greek god.

And he doesn’t believe, now in his 14th — and probably final — Canadian Football League season, he’s slowing down with age.

“You know why? Because I was never fast,” Bowman, never shy to deprecate himself, quipped Tuesday after he was named one of the league’s top performers of the week.

The seemingly ageless rush-end registered five tackles and two quarterback sacks in last Friday’s hard-fought 21-16 victory over British Columbia. He also forced a fumble. Bowman’s final sack of Lions quarterback Mike Reilly came with 17 seconds remaining in regulation on second down, with the visitors scrimmaging from their own 26.

Bowman now has 130 career sacks. With one more, he will move past Vince Goldsmith into sixth place among the CFL’s career sack leaders.

“I just try to execute and try to play good ball,” said the 6-foot-3, 250 pounder, who became the Als’ oldest player this season following the release of return-specialist Stefan Logan. “I can’t explain it. I just try to play every play like it’s my last.

“I don’t have a million sacks, but I never had.”

Bowman continues to astound people by playing a demanding position with grace at an age when most of his peers were long retired. He now has four sacks and 30 defensive tackles through 10 games, but will never take individual credit — not even after he knocked down an overtime pass in Calgary this season when the Stampeders attempted the requisite two-point convert following a touchdown.

If Bowman remains an ageless wonder, he also has taken care of his body throughout the years. He maintains a rigorous diet, doesn’t stay out late, has been known to take yoga classes in the winter and has a weekly massage to keep himself limber.

“What you put in your body is what you get out of it,” he explained. “I’ve never been one to be out on the street. Montreal is a tough city and summertime is awfully tempting.

“I take care of myself and try to help the team win the best I can.”

While practice remains a necessary evil for Bowman, he clearly relishes, and is revitalized on, game days. The morning of every game he tweets, without fail, how blessed he is to be playing one more time. The native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who came from an impoverished upbringing never has taken anything for granted.

“I know why I’m here. I was born into poverty, raised in Dumpsters,” he said. “I wasn’t given a fair chance. I played Division II … Arena 2 … NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics). I wasn’t supposed to be here. Everyday I get a chance to play is a blessing.”

Bowman admitted he feels old almost daily, and it has become more of a struggle to get his body out of bed. Only once a game begins does he feel rejuvenated. It’s a formula that seems to work with head coach Khari Jones.

“Whatever he’s doing, people should follow suit. He just keeps making plays,” Jones said. “He looks much younger than his birth certificate says. He takes care of himself and does what needs to be done to get out there and play every week. Especially at that position — it’s hard to play as long as he has and the level he’s playing at.”

Bowman said he has had to alter his game through the years — not so much as he has aged, but more as the Als have changed defensive coordinators. Bob Slowik this season became the seventh for which Bowman has played.

“That’s how you last in this league,” Bowman said. “No coach has been here as long as I’ve been here. Teams change. It’s the ones who are able to evolve or adapt on the fly that have longevity.”

The Als will be without tailback Jeremiah Johnson (concussion) when they play in Saskatchewan Saturday night. That creates a roster opening for an import — one probably filled by receiver Chris Matthews, who would be making his Montreal debut. Canadian tailback Shaq Murray-Lawrence probably will come off the practice roster to back up William Stanback.

Defensive-end Chad Geter, released Monday, was added almost immediately to the Roughriders’ practice roster.


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