Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
A bittersweet scene erupted at the 49ers OTAs this past Tuesday. No, it was not Trent Baalke apologizing to Jim Harbaugh in person, hugging it out, and saying he should’ve appreciated him more. That will likely not happen in this lifetime. The event however did involve a player that was on the 49ers during the Harbaugh/Baalke era. That player was former All-Pro linebacker of the San Francisco 49ers, NaVorro Bowman, and the event was him returning to the 49ers facility to officially announce his retirement as a part of the organization. Bowman played spent seven plus seasons with the 49ers and was an all-time great. He deserves all the respect and well-wishes, and we honor him this week by taking a look back at his time with the Red and Gold!
Bowman was the 49ers third-round (91st overall) selection in the 2010 draft out of Penn State University. He entered a linebacker corps that had perennial All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis and multi-year veteran/greatest name of all-time candidate Takeo Spikes starting at the inside linebacker spots. But Bowman put in the work and learned from the both of them. He also put in his time on special teams. And with Spikes’ departure at the end of the season, he was ready to jump into a starting role for 2011.
Bowman wasted no time making his presence felt. He would start all 16 games, and finish second in the NFL with 111 solo tackles. He became an integral part of the defense and helped lead the 49ers to their first NFC Championship game in 14 years. His stellar play earned him a First Team All-Pro selection at the end of the season. From 2011 to 2014 Bowman would join Willis to form one of the most prolific linebacker tandems in the league!
Although Bowman’s eight years in the league was not very long for most players of his caliber, he made an immense impact during that time. He was selected to three Pro Bowls (2012, 2013, and 2015) and was named First Team All-Pro four times (2011 to 2013, and 2015). And the gap year 2014 in which he did not earn any distinctions was only because he was out the whole season with the knee injury suffered in the 2013 NFC Championship game. He returned in 2015 in full form to have another productive season.
Bowman will surely be remembered as part of the 49ers teams that went to three straight NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. But there are really two specific moments that immortalized him in the pantheon of great 49ers. And both those moments happened in separate games against the Atlanta Falcons.
The first was in the 2012 NFC Championship Game. The 49ers were up 28-24 late in the fourth quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons were driving down the field and draining significant time off the clock as they did so. It was fourth and 4 on the San Francisco 10-yard line. It looked as though the Falcons might score a walk-off touchdown to end the game. The game was all on the line with that one play. And in one of the most clutch moments in sports history Bowman batted down a would-be completion to cause a turnover on downs and seal a trip to the Super Bowl for the team.
The second of those iconic Bowman moments was in the very last game at Candlestick Park in the 2013 regular season. With 1:31 left in the game the 49ers were ahead 27-24. The Falcons again found themselves driving down the field and at the San Francisco 10-yard line. Quarterback Matt Ryan dropped back to throw a pass intended for wide receiver Harry Douglas. Cornerback Tramaine Brock however made a break for the ball, and the tipped pass landed right into the hands of Bowman, who took the interception to the house for a touchdown. It was more than just a pretty play as it clinched a playoff spot for the 49ers. That play was fondly dubbed “The Pick at the Stick” and was the last memory fans would have of the old stadium.
There was always a type of energy that Bowman brought to the field with him every gameday. Something in which you knew he was going to lay it all on the line and give his team and the fans 110 percent. That feeling can only really be described as “The Bowman Omen” (which I will gladly take creative ownership of)!
So, NaVorro Bowman on behalf of the 49ersHub and 49er Faithful all across the globe, we thank you for all the great memories and for giving your heart and soul to this organization! You will always be remembered as an all-time 49er legend!
You can follow Safa on Twitter here!
Stay tuned to 49ersHub for more great 49ers analysis!