This story is part of a series recognizing the top high school athletes in Barren County for the 2017-18 school year as chosen by the Glasgow Daily Times.
GLASGOW — Speaking about his youth league football days, Tanner Bowles said he was probably "one of the worst" players on the field. When people look back one day on Bowles' high school career, they will likely say he was one of the best to ever wear a Glasgow uniform.
Bowles — a 6'5, 280-pound offensive tackle — is the 2017-18 Goodman Automotive Football Athlete of the Year. The rising Glasgow High School senior dominated the left side of the line for the Scotties in a 2017 season that included a region title and a trip to the state semifinals.
Bowles committed this spring to play football at the University of Alabama following his senior season in Glasgow. He tries to temper the talk of his commitment by telling people it's "not that big of a deal at the moment," but his future college career is something everyone asks him about.
"I understand that, but we need to focus on winning first, and I'll take care of that afterward," Bowles said.
Bowles was selected as the Kentucky Football Coaches Association Class 2A, District 3 Player of the Year in 2017. He was also named to the 2017 Associated Press Kentucky All-State second team offense following his junior season.
Glasgow defeated Monroe County in the third round of the state playoffs to claim the region title. The Scotties also finished first in District 3 in 2017 with a perfect record.
Bowles' favorite memory of the 2017 season was Glasgow's second round playoff win over a solid Newport Central Catholic team. It was a back-and-forth affair with an exciting ending, and Bowles said celebrating with the team in the locker room after the win was a great moment.
Over his career at Glasgow, Bowles has been part of change, promise and potential realized.
Bowles started his freshman year, which was also Jeff Garmon's first season as GHS head coach.
"Coming in as a freshman, I wasn't very confident at all. I was very nervous every single game. I remember coming into that first game and I was sick to my stomach just thinking I had to start as a freshman in high school," he said.
Garmon coached Bowles' older brother, and watched Tanner progress through youth and middle school football. He said it was a challenge for Bowles to start as a freshman, but he didn't back down from the opportunity.
"I can remember him just trying to survive — to get through. He was playing at a fast pace, and he wasn't used to that, but he got better," Garmon said. "And that's one thing that's impressed me with Tanner — he's gotten better each year."
While he's blessed with natural attributes such as size and agility, Garmon said it's what people don't see that makes Bowles such a great football player.
"What people don't understand is just how much work he's put in and how hard he pushes himself in the weight room, and how hard he's prepared himself for this," Garmon said.
Bowles said his work ethic was influenced by his father.
"The one thing that my father always told me was if you want to be better than your opponent, you have to work more than them. You can't work as much as your opponent to be better," Bowles said.
His first scholarship offer came after his sophomore year. Garmon said recruiters told him there would be plenty more offers to come. They were right.
Just about every school in the SEC and ACC along with several Big 10 programs sent recruiters to watch Bowles, Garmon said. From Stanford to Oklahoma, from Florida State to Pittsburgh, Bowles has drawn interest from around the nation.
All the while, Garmon said Bowles has been an outstanding example for his teammates. On the field, Bowles can play any position on the line and even long-snap.
While linemen don't always get the attention they deserve, that doesn't mean they don't have fun. Bowles said his favorite play is a downside block on a backside linebacker "because they just don't ever see it coming."
Even if a defender does see Bowles coming, most can't do much about it. Garmon said it's impressive how Bowles stays on his feet while dominating defenders on the line.
What makes a good offensive lineman in Bowles' opinion?
"You have to be aggressive for sure. You can't be a chicken. You can't run away from a fight. You're going to get hit pretty hard here and there, so you have to make sure you're tough enough to take the hit," he said.
Linemen take pride in seeing their teammates succeed, especially as a result of their hard work in the trenches.
"We really don't get talked about but seeing something in the newspaper about our running backs getting 400 yards in a game, that's a pretty good feeling," Bowles said.
It's all part of the team-first concept that Bowles said is critical to success, which is something many are predicting Glasgow will experience a lot of in 2018.
"Over the past three years, I feel like we've improved a lot. We've become very experienced. We've grown together as a team. I feel like we've bonded a lot more, so I think we actually feel like we were where we needed to be last year, and this year we should do even better," he said.