By Tony Castricone (photo credit: Scott Eklund)
August 3, 2018

Ryan Bowman led the Huskies in sacks last year with 5.5 on the season. As a freshman. And a walk-on.

Now, Ryan and the Dawgs open camp on a 2018 season filled with high expectations for both the team and himself.

I had a chance to catch up with No. 55 to get his thoughts on the first day of practice and more.

TC: You led the team in sacks last year as a freshman. Of course, you always want to get better, but how do you monitor your progress? Is it stats? Weight room stats? What’s big for you?

Ryan Bowman: I think it’s just film. Watching film, and not just thinking about it as stats. Just thinking about it like: what I can to do to ruin this offensive play. The play that they’re trying to run. What I can do to jeopardize the play for the offense. Just kind of, I don’t know, not really thinking about stats, but more how we can execute everything we do. Because if we can execute everything we do perfectly, our stats are going to be great, so if we just worry about execution and technique, then everything else will just settle itself out.

TC: What’s it like playing with your brother (Shane)?

RB: Great. It’s great.

TC: Did you look up to him a lot growing up? Or did you guys kind of have that sibling rivalry thing?

RB: We were always kind of really competitive, but we got to play one year together, and that was, like, my sophomore year of high school. And that was, like, the best football year of my life. We won the state championship for Bellevue. He was a senior and I was a sophomore. We were both playing defensive end. So, we were playing opposite sides. It was really fun. So coming here, just the possibility of doing that again was like a dream for me, so… I just want to relive that.

TC: What made you decide to go to IMG (Academy for high school after Bellevue)?

RB: I wanted to take football, and life, to the next level.

TC: How do you mean “and life?”

RB: I felt like I wasn’t really moving forward with myself, like in terms of responsibility and being prepared for… I didn’t think I’d be as well prepared at the college level if I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity I had to go to IMG. Going to IMG is like a college preparatory academy so I was like, if I want to be the best player I can be, and prove people wrong to the best of my abilities, I’ve got to prepare the hardest. And going to IMG would prepare me more than any other place in the country.

TC: Preparing you from a school standpoint, too?

RB: Yeah. Preparing me from an education standpoint, workouts, college-level workouts, football at the college-level type deal. They’ve got the best guys in the country, and they’ve got a college kind of regiment that they do there. Like the schedule’s all like just how it is here. We had three or four classes a day, but then a two-and-a-half hour study hall that was mandatory at night in our dorm room. And then we had workouts in the morning and field work after classes at like 2:30, so it was like your whole day was filled with activities with education and football. When you come here as a freshman, that’s how it is. You’re here for football and school all day. And then you get used to it so when you get here, you’re not like, “Wow, I’m so tired. I don’t know if I can do this.” So when I got here, I was pretty conditioned to doing that, so it wasn’t like that demanding. I mean, it was demanding, but…

TC: You think that was crucial for you to take that step before college?

RB: I think so, definitely. I think if I stayed… like, I love Bellevue. Bellevue’s great. I just, for myself, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t go to IMG.

TC: What are you studying here?

RB: I’m studying CHID. (pronounced “SHID”)

TC: What’s that?

RB: I just switched majors. I was doing sociology at first, and then I just switched over the CHID. It’s Comparative History of Ideas. So it’s like a bunch of different things…. Brandon Wellington’s in there. A couple of the other guys on our team are doing that, like JoJo McIntosh and Sean McGrew.

TC: So, is it like politics? Philosophy? Religion? When you say ideas, what kind of ideas?

RB: Pretty much all that. It’s like a lot of everything. They are fun, engaging classes, which is what I’ve heard, and it sounds like something I’d really enjoy, so I switched over to that in the spring, so my first classes are lined up for this fall…. I had never heard of it until this spring, and all these guys on the team are saying how awesome it is, so I was like, “why am I not doing that?” I took a philosophy class at IMG, and I thought that it was really cool.

TC: You pretty pumped for this Auburn game.

RB: Yeah… yeah.

TC: More pumped that you would be if it was an FCS or mid-major?

RB: To me, it’s like, any first game is just like a great opportunity to prove yourself and just kind of upgrade from where you were last year. And I think this Auburn game is just going to be a great pedestal to do that, because it’s such a big game and so many people are going to be watching, and we’re really going to have an opportunity to prove what Washington’s all about. Especially down south. So that’s sort of what I’m mainly excited for. Just proving what Washington’s about.

TC: Yeah. You play great team in the conference all the time. But out-of-conference great teams… it seems like a rare opportunity.

RB: That’s why it’s so exciting. Because you get to prove what your conference is all about. A lot of those guys down south want to sleep on northwest teams and west coast teams, and it’s like, it’s really not any different, you know? So it’s just about proving those dudes wrong. That’s what makes it so fun.

TC: Let’s talk changes year one to year two. I feel like that shock to the system of getting out there in your first year, the game being so much faster and everything, has it slowed down a lot for you in the last year?

RB: Yeah, I mean… I’ve got to try to slow myself down sometimes because I’ll be going fast, and I’ll have to be like… just slow myself down and read things. I think I could definitely read things a lot better than I could last year, and I think my technique is just ten times better than it was last year.

TC: Like in what ways?

RB: Like in everything. In run defense. In pass rush. Disengaging off blocks. Striking techniques. Just all overall technique is just probably like ten times better than last year.

TC: You had a good year last year. But the better you get, and Coach Pete says this all the time, the better you get, the more subtle the difference is in your improvement. Right? So what are maybe a couple subtleties that you’re trying to work on that are going to be the next step for you?

RB: Definitely pass rush number one. And then disengaging off blocks is key to being successful at our positions. So I’ve just been hitting that really hard every week. Me and (my brother) Shane worked four days every week in the summer doing extra work in terms of pass rush and disengaging off blocks to be as destructive as we can be. Because the talk was, our pass rush was somewhat limited last year, so we’re really just trying to just triple that. That was really our main focus all off-season. We’re really trying to show that out come this season.

TC: What kind of stuff did you do?

RB: We got these arm pads, and we just worked on different moves, like shot club rib. Counter moves like spin moves, like, a two-piece rush, like a triple strike, different stab techniques like stab C, stab T. Or you could do like a stab chop. Just like all different moves that you can kind of combine together so that the offensive line doesn’t know what you’re doing. Different moves look the same, and then you have a different counter for each move, so it’s kind of like… keep the offense on their toes. You know?

TC: Growing up locally, is playing for UW pretty special?

RB: Well, I grew up in Chicago, and we moved here when I was eight. And as soon as we got here, it was like, the Huskies were the thing. I really wasn’t even that big of a Huskies fan originally, but my brother was. And then I kind of came around to it around when Hau’oli and Keith Price was the quarterback and Bishop Sankey and all of them. Because I would come to the games all the time and I’d be kind of like… I’d see the players on the field and think: am I ever going to be that big? Because they looked like nine feet tall. But it’s kind of surreal now to just be in their shoes, and doing what they were doing. Knowing the work that they put in, and the commitment, it’s really awesome to be a part of something that’s this special. And growing up, you think, like, it’s kind of untouchable, but you can get to those locations in life by just persevering through different things and believing in yourself.

TC: And what a time to be here, huh? Coach Pete has things going so well. It’s a good culture. It’s healthy.

RB: That’s what makes Washington so great. Coach Pete. It’s the best. I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.

TC: What about your relationships with the assistants?

RB: It’s all great. All of them are like, great guys. Great coaches. They always help out. They’re always there for you to just like, talk to, eat with, talk to at dinner, lunch, whatever. They’re all great dudes. Coach Pete always gets the best of the best.

TC: Is there one that you’re particularly close with on a personal level?

RB: All the strength coaches. I think all the strength coaches for sure.

TC: Tim (Socha) and his staff?

RB: Yeah, definitely. Those guys are the best.

TC: Why?

RB: Because we spend the most time with them. They’re serious, but they can also like joke around with you. They’re like the perfect of both worlds. They’re great. They make the workouts fun. Like, it’s hard. You’re dying. But they make it to a point where you’re having a ton of fun and you know you’re getting better, so that’s what makes it so great. Having fun and getting better at the same time? I’m sold.