November 24, 2017

Bowman wins Tom Pate Award

Eskimos slotback Adarius Bowman has been already rewarded beyond his wildest dreams since he started Adarius 4 Autism earlier this year.

“Working with this autistic community has been the most humbling and precious experience I’ve had,” he said.

“This will be something I’ll do for the rest of my life,” Bowman continued. “My team and I are determined to continue to build. We have an amazing business plan in terms of getting a facility made and we’ve got some great ideas in an after-school program that we’re really trying to put together, so this is definitely not a one-year thing. This is my life.”

The Canadian Football League Players’ Association announced Thursday at the Shaw CFL Awards in Ottawa that Bowman, 32, won the Tom Pate Award, presented to a player with outstanding sportsmanship who makes a contribution to his team, community and the association.

“I’m very excited about it,” said Bowman, the fourth Eskimos player to receive the award. “I can only thank all the support and all the volunteers, all the parents, our team, everybody who was behind us, Brock Ralph, his family for embracing us to even be able to get the OK to go for it (starting his non-profit corporation) by using Oakley as my inspiration.”

Bowman met Oakley, Ralph’s daughter with autism, when he was playing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2009-10.

“I’ve got to thank the city of Edmonton,” Bowman said. “They really embraced it and backed me up with everything. I feel like just being around Edmonton is what really got me back to our natural state of just giving back.

“As football players, we forget sometimes how much of a privilege this is. I hope we never forget the ones who were really there for us. For me, I look at my mom, my guidance counsellor and my athletic director from high school, my receiver coaches I had, the scholarship I got in college and every CFL team I’ve been on. I think that everybody had a part to play in it.

“If I take away all of my coaches, athletic directors, teammates, just the whole process that comes with being a football player, I don’t think you really see a lot of the Adarius Bowman that you see (today).”

Bowman has always had a passion for helping youth since he was in high school. He graduated from college with a degree in elementary education and has been involved in the community in Regina, Winnipeg and Edmonton since he’s been in the CFL.

Most of the time Bowman spent working with Adarius 4 Autism – raising awareness for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder – occurred during the off-season, plus off-days during the CFL season.

“Once the season got here, my team and all the volunteers kind of held it down for me,” he said. “Once the season came around, I was able to put my focus toward (the Eskimos). That was one of my commitments going in. I definitely don’t want something to interfere with my career because I love it, but (his non-profit corporation) was definitely something that I had to stay involved with.”

Bowman and Ralph quickly went from being Blue Bombers teammates and roommates to best friends and Oakley became “like a niece of mine.” The Ralphs now live in Edmonton and Ralph has coached the Harry Ainlay Titans high school football team for the last five years.

“I remember when we first started (Adarius 4 Autism), I said if she’s the only person I helped, then I felt like I did something,” Bowman said about Oakley.

Now, the sky’s the limit.

“We’ve got a lot of plans,” he said. “We’re still new, so we’re doing a lot of learning. It’s an amazing community to work with, but it’s also a precious community. When it comes to the ideas you have, you have to take your time. You can’t just jump to it. One of their sayings is if you’ve met one autistic kid or one autistic adult, it’s just that. You’ve only met one. Every case is different.”

Once a facility is in place, one of the main objectives of Bowman’s foundation will be to develop family-based programs and assist “higher-functioning adults and teens” to exist in a working environment and “achieve their dreams,” just like Bowman did.

Bowman was pleasantly surprised when his dentist told him earlier this week that she and her husband were thinking about adopting autistic children because they had an autistic nephew.

“It is closer than what we all think,” he said. “We’ve probably been around a lot of autistic teens and adults and just didn’t know it. But it’s been a very humbling experience.”