MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (BVM) – When it comes to high school football talent in Indiana, Drayk Bowen stands above the rest. A state champion and the reigning Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year, Bowen has impressed at every stop while at Andrean. Soon, he will showcase his talent at the college level with Notre Dame.
Also a running back, Bowen’s main position on the gridiron is linebacker. He’s ranked No. 6 at the position nationally, and is a top-100 player in the 2023 class. Bowen has looked up to some of the best to do it at the position over the past decade in guys like Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner, and hopes to follow in their footsteps.
“Those are really the two that I’ve always wanted to be like and kind of have tried to emulate their game,” Bowen said. “Both of them have done really everything they could in the sport and have been the best at their position.”
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Bowen has come a long way since he was introduced to football by his dad over a decade ago. Instantly, he fell in love with the sport, becoming a skilled player with a high motor. However, football was not his only love. Over the years, the Andrean senior has also developed into a baseball standout.
Although he missed his freshman season due to the pandemic, and will likely forgo his senior season as he plans to enroll early at Notre Dame, Bowen has had a successful baseball career at Andrean. Last season, that included a state championship as he batted .350 with 30 RBIs.
“The atmosphere was awesome,” Bowen said about state. “It was a pretty cool feeling knowing that I had won one in football and then I got the chance to win one in baseball. I was super excited just because those were the two sports I always wanted to win a state championship in. Being able to live out that dream, especially in the same season, was pretty awesome.”
As Bowen joined the Hoosier State’s elite travel baseball program, the Indiana Bulls, many began realizing he may have a chance to play two sports once he gets to college. In addition to football, he plans to play baseball in South Bend.
“I love the Bulls, they were really the people that kind of started the baseball recruitment process for me,” Bowen said. “They helped me learn different things that I can take with me to college.”
As good as his baseball career has been, Bowen’s talent on the gridiron has stood out even more. He credits his time playing Pop Warner football with the Tri-Town Raiders for really helping him to learn the game.
“A lot of what I’ve learned, I would definitely say I got from there,” Bowen noted. “I just learned how to play the game, how to watch film. I learned a lot of stuff that I could build upon.”
Bowen did just that through his middle school career and eventually into his high school years at Andrean. As just a freshman, Bowen became a varsity starter for the Fighting 59ers.
“It wasn’t a hard adjustment,” Bowen said. “That was something I always wanted, to go in as a freshman and start on varsity. So I knew the expectation the coaches would have for me if I were to get that, and I had the same expectations for myself.”
However, it was Bowen’s sophomore season that his talent really began to shine.
“Sophomore year is really when I took off,” Bowen added. “I raised my standard of expectations a little bit. I got bigger, got in the weight room, got stronger. My sophomore year just kind of kick-started everything for me … The rest is history.”
The linebacker and running back developed into a young leader on a couple of Andrean squads that ended up falling just short of state. However, that would change come 2021. The season would start off with a 1-2 start as the Fighting 59ers endured losses to Merrillville and out-of-state opponent Grand Rapids Catholic of Michigan.
Andrean would win its next five contests after that, but a loss to end the regular season is when Bowen and his team realized they needed to regroup.
“I think it was our last game of the regular season,” Bowen said about the turning point for his team in 2021. “It was a bad game, we did not play how we should have … That horribly played game by us and the fact that we were still in it, just showed all of us that we have to sharpen everything up and we had a real chance to make it somewhere. After that game, we just really bonded together and made our mark on what the rest of that season would be like.”
Andrean did just that, rattling off five straight playoff wins to get to Lucas Oil Stadium where they would take on Evansville Mater Dei. There, a confident Fighting 59ers squad continued to roll, winning the state championship game, 21-9.
“The atmosphere was pretty awesome,” Bowen said. “It was very energetic and people wanted to get after it. We just knew that we were not going to lose this game. During the game, something clicked in me, and I just kind of took over … I just kept doing what I needed to do. I know our team had wanted that for so long, and I had wanted that ever since I was a little kid.”
Bowen was one of the main reasons Andrean was in position to play for a championship, and he shined on the brightest stage. On defense, the linebacker made six tackles and had a strip sack. On offense, he was even better, rushing for 171 yards and three touchdowns.
State Championship Highlights 🏆
24 carries ~171 yards ~3 TD’s
6 tackles~3 TFL
1 sack~ 1 FF ~ 1 BLK Punt
Szn Hudl Coming Soon 💛❤️☘️ pic.twitter.com/QMcFZccFzl
— Drayk Bowen (@DraykBowen) December 2, 2021
It was the perfect cap to what was a dominant season for the Andrean standout, who put up 105 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, three sacks and three interceptions on defense, as well as nearly 1,000 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns on offense. The numbers proved he was the best player in the state in 2021, further vindicated by winning Gatorade Indiana Football Player of the Year.
“It was really awesome because it kind of came out of nowhere,” Bowen said. “Winning it came as a surprise and it was super, super exciting and an honor … I’m hoping to win it again this year.”
After dropping their first two games, the Fighting 59ers have put together wins in their last couple of contests to start the 2022 season. Bowen continues to show his versatility on the field, mixing in at tight end and pass rusher as well this season. No matter where he is lining up, the senior just continues to make plays.
— Drayk Bowen (@DraykBowen) September 4, 2022
In the season opener, Bowen had nine tackles and a sack, numbers he has continued to build on as the year has rolled on.
Andrean will look to win conference and hopefully make a return trip to Lucas Oil Stadium in November. Meanwhile, Bowen hopes he can leave his stamp on the Andrean program.
“Coming in, I really wanted to win Gatorade Player of the Year again, Mr. Football, and as a team we had some unfinished business with conference,” Bowen said. “Last year we tied it, this year we want to win it outright. That was one of our first goals and then our second goal was to make it back to state.
“My mark that I want to leave is just to prove that I was the best to come out of the area. One of my goals was to work to be the best and eventually lead to be the best. This is my last ride to showcase that before I’m gone.”
Following his fall season at Andrean, the next chapter of Bowen’s football journey will begin. That will start with another opportunity to showcase his skills at the prestigious All-American Bowl.
“I’ve watched those games on TV ever since I was a little kid, so I’m really excited that I get to go represent Indiana,” Bowen added. “I’m just going out there and I’m hoping to prove that Indiana boys can play too.”
By the time he gets to college, Bowen will be looking to do the same. Many, including himself, once thought the linebacker would be SEC bound. Clemson was also in the final mix. However, when it came down to it, staying in-state at Notre Dame was the perfect fit.
“Coach Freeman was a big part of it, I have a great relationship with him and the coaching staff,” Bowen said. “It’s close to my family, so I can see my family, my brother and sister. And then I eventually just fell in love with the campus and the school.”
Despite a rocky start in 2022, the new era of Notre Dame football under Marcus Freeman looks very bright. Getting to play for one of the young, up-and-coming coaches in the sport is something Bowen is looking forward to.
“I’m really excited,” Bowen said. “He is one of the best college coaches in my opinion. He’s a great defensive coach. He’s going to teach me to be a better football player, the best football player I can be. He’s also going to teach me how to be a better man.”
One of the most important jobs for Freeman and his staff is making sure they are bringing in the necessary recruits to keep the Fighting Irish successful. However, with Bowen being the “hometown kid” in the 2023 class, he has put it upon himself to also help with this process, being active with communicating with recruits on social media and when he is in South Bend.
Go Irish ☘️ pic.twitter.com/2ATC2KF1T8
— Drayk Bowen (@DraykBowen) December 18, 2021
“Being the closest to the campus, I can kind of build those relationships and help with that,” Bowen said. “I can also be there too, meet people in person and talk to people in person. I’m an Indiana kid, Notre Dame is an hour away … I want to make this class the best that it can be.”
Bowen will look to make an immediate impact once he suits up for the Irish. For quite some time, his goal has been to earn playing time as a freshman in 2023.
“I hope to go in there and start, be able to play as a freshman,” Bowen said. “That’s one of the goals I’ve had since I’ve committed. I know I have a lot of work to do there.”
It’s a ways off, but Bowen has already thought about his life beyond Notre Dame as well. Ideally, that will include playing a sport professionally, whether that be football, baseball, or perhaps even both.
“Maybe I have to choose eventually, but the dream is I don’t have to choose and play in the MLB and the NFL,” Bowen said. “The dream is to at least get to one. That’s always been my goal, to hopefully strive for both and then if I have to choose one, pick one that will be the right choice.
“I’ve been dreaming about it ever since I was a little kid. It’s just something I’ve always wanted. I know there’s a lot of work to still be done … There’s going to be a ton of it to be able to get to my dream, but I’m ready for it.”
However, first thing’s first, and that’s Bowen representing his home state at Notre Dame. While he has plenty of individual goals, the main thing Bowen hopes to accomplish is bringing a long-awaited national championship back to South Bend.
“We hope as a class to bring that national championship back to Notre Dame and change the attitude of others toward Notre Dame,” Bowen concluded. “A lot of people say Notre Dame can’t get past the big game. We all want to take that statement and let them know that Notre Dame is back and we’re coming.”