How Alan Bowman's Grapevine roots prepared him for what's ahead at Oklahoma State

GRAPEVINE, Texas — Richard Bishop showed up at Grapevine High School in the spring of 2014 as the football team’s new offensive coordinator under head coach Randy Jackson.
The new coaching staff arrived late in the spring, so they didn’t get much time to meet the eighth graders who would be freshmen the next fall, but Bishop saw a few workouts with a group of players from Cross Timbers Middle School — yet that was plenty of time to identify the leader of the group.
A skinny redheaded boy with a big smile on his pale white face drew his teammates to him like a magnet. Barely 14 years old, he carried himself like a young adult rather than the fledgling teenager that he was.
And that right arm? Bishop had never seen an eighth grader throw a football like this kid.
Alan Bowman made an immediate impression on his future coaches, and eventually helped them turn around a Grapevine High program that had won three games the previous two seasons.
Bowman’s college career has been more of a rollercoaster, from his early emergence at Texas Tech to his injury woes and his two years as a third-teamer at Michigan.
But now, the 23-year-old super-senior faces a fresh start at Oklahoma State, just like he had when Jackson and Bishop arrived at Grapevine nine years ago.
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Bowman seems like the clear favorite for the starting job at OSU, though head coach Mike Gundy says he’ll give his quarterbacks a couple weeks of preseason camp — which begins Wednesday — to settle the debate.
But if those who have known him since his early teenage years have learned anything, it’s that you don’t doubt Bowman.
“He always bets on himself and that’s what I love about him,” said Bishop, who is entering his sixth season as the head coach at Westwood High School in Palestine, Texas.
And it all started with Bishop’s first encounter with Bowman at Cross Timbers Middle School.
“Obviously, the arm talent was there,” Bishop told The Oklahoman. “Right away, you could see that. But more his moxie.
“Even though he was a 14-year-old kid, immature physically, but he had such a mature approach to how he went about things and a calm presence. You could tell he was gonna be the field general.”
At the time, Bishop had four quarterbacks already at the high school level, so when preseason camp started, he put Bowman at the end of the line. Fifth-string on varsity, but the starter on the freshman team.
And in his first couple of games, Bowman torched the opposing ninth-grade defenses.
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Exciting, sure. But Bishop’s varsity offense was in the hands of Sam Barry, a senior and a Division I talent. But in the third week of the season, Barry tore his ACL.
“We had a decision to make,” Bishop said of himself and Jackson. “We had five quarterbacks in the program, and Coach Jackson and myself were like, ‘This guy’s the future.’ He leaped over everybody and started every game the rest of his career.”
In one of Bowman’s first games as the starter, he missed a throw on what would have been a touchdown in a tight game. Jackson, always fiery on the sideline, began to yell about the missed opportunity.
“About that time, Alan jogs in between us and he sees me and Coach Jackson talking back and forth, and Coach Jackson’s fired up,” Bishop said. “Alan just slaps Coach Jackson on the butt as he runs by him and says, ‘Coach, I got it. Don’t worry about it.’ And he smiles.
“And we go on and win the game. He was 14 years old and we gave him the reins to the varsity football program. And he never flinched.”
Barry ultimately went to the Air Force Academy to continue his football career. The other three quarterbacks departed for other schools.
“The next spring, Alan quarterbacked both sides of the spring game, because we didn’t have another quarterback,” Bishop said with a laugh.
Jackson hired Mike Alexander as his defensive coordinator in the spring of Bowman’s freshman year. As Alexander watched game tape to learn about his new squad, he couldn’t help but notice the gifted quarterback.
“Do you have this quarterback back next year?” Alexander asked Jackson.
“Coach, he was just a freshman,” Jackson told him.
That ignited Alexander’s fascination with the young quarterback.
“We start spring drills and I was sending tape to all my friends, like, ‘He’s gonna be a sophomore!’” Alexander said. “He was always head and shoulders above what he should’ve been as a high school player. And not just his ability, but how he carried himself.”
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Their relationship was a two-way street, and because of it, Alexander says he owes a piece of his career to the quarterback.
Jackson left Grapevine after Bowman’s junior season, in which the Mustangs had won 10 games. But his departure left the program in a haze of uncertainty.
“Coach Jackson called a staff meeting on a Monday morning in early February and told us he was gonna be leaving,” Alexander said. “You know what that means. Who knows how that’s gonna go down?
“Obviously, I wanted to be the head coach, but that’s always a tricky deal when you’re on staff, trying to navigate how all that’s gonna work.”
Yet within 24 hours of hearing the news, Bowman took action. He wrote a letter to the school superintendent, then had every player on the team — roughly 150 kids — sign it, endorsing the promotion of Alexander to head coach.
“I didn’t learn about that until months later,” Alexander said. “For him to do that, that was huge. Maybe I get the job if he doesn’t do it, maybe I don’t. I don’t know. But either way, the fact that he would do that always meant a ton to me.”
Under Jackson, then Alexander — with Bishop running the Air Raid offense — Bowman quarterbacked the Mustangs to 27 wins over his final three seasons, helping turn a struggling program into a perennial playoff team.
“He was the catalyst,” Bishop said of Bowman. “He was a servant leader. He was the hardest worker. The guys were gonna follow him. We knew once we had him bought into what we were trying to build, the team was gonna follow. It would not have happened without Alan Bowman being the triggerman.”
Bowman’s high school life was full of football, but not encapsulated by it.
“Teachers loved Alan, because he’s one of those guys that is a thermostat,” Alexander said. “He walks into a room, and his attitude elevates everybody. He’s got an infectious personality. When you meet Alan, adults are just blown away by his maturity and how he carries himself.
“Alan was the best player on his team for four years straight, but he never acted like it. Anytime we told him we needed him to run the 200 in the track meet, he would cancel his throwing session or whatever he had with some quarterback guru and he would go run the 200. Or run the 400. Whatever we asked him to do as a high school athlete, he did it without any questions. He was always, ‘Whatever you need, Coach.’ Sometimes we used him, sometimes we didn’t. But he never one time tried to say that he couldn’t come to a track meet.”
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The school's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, Bowman helped Grapevine turn around a decade of bad football, so the reclamation project he’s now a part of at Oklahoma State isn’t nearly as drastic. The Cowboys essentially must recover from a bad half a season that saw them finish 7-6 last fall.
Yet if not for a pivotal decision made in Waco, Texas, late one January night, Oklahoma State coordinator Kasey Dunn might be trying to re-energize his offense without the veteran presence Bowman has brought to Stillwater.
Bowman spent the last two seasons as the third-teamer on a Michigan squad that twice went to the College Football Playoff. After Cade McNamara transferred early last December, Bowman served as the backup to J.J. McCarthy in the semifinal loss to TCU — even though he was already in the portal, an opportunity afforded him by coach Jim Harbaugh.
Bowman’s goal was to get back within a few hours of his central Texas home.
“He’s still got the NFL dream,” Kirk Bowman said. “He wants to put up some numbers, win some games, try to win a championship, and see if he can get the NFL to notice.
“Several schools called, but a lot of them were too far away. He had decided if nothing else worked out, he would go to Incarnate Word in San Antonio.”
A few days after the season, Bowman flew to Austin, where he met his father, Kirk, to begin a run of campus visits. The first was Texas State in San Marcos. After that, a drive up Interstate 35 to meet with coaches at Baylor.
The visits were strictly about football.
“When we would show up, he was like, ‘I don’t wanna see the bookstore. I don’t wanna see the campus. I wanna watch film,’” Kirk said. “Then he would talk football with them and tell them who he was.
We were at Baylor the first time Oklahoma State reached out. It was very last-minute. Sherrone Moore knows Kasey Dunn real well, and Sherrone called Dunn, from what I understand, and said, ‘I’ve got your guy.’”
It was 11:30 p.m. on a Friday night when the Bowmans decided they’d make the trip from Waco to Stillwater to meet with OSU coaches at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“Gundy had a family deal, so we only talked to him on the phone,” Kirk said. We literally just went up there to watch film. Literally watched film for four hours. We didn’t go to the indoor facility. Alan wanted to see, is this an offense I can be successful in? Is this a program that I’ll be able to contribute to? And it felt like a good fit on both sides.”
A lot of pieces had to fall into place for OSU to land Bowman, but one of them formulated through years of Dunn’s diligent work building relationships on the recruiting trail.
While serving as OSU’s receivers coach prior to being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2020, Dunn focused heavily on mining prospects in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
“Being as close to the airport as Grapevine is, you get everybody coming through,” Alexander said. “All the Big 12, SEC, everybody sends somebody. When they get off the airplane at DFW, this is one of their first stops. So I interact with a lot of those guys, but of all the Power Five guys that come through here, Kasey did as good a job as anybody about being honest, up front, communicating well.
“Even in years when we didn’t have anybody that he needed to recruit, he would come in and sit down, never was in a hurry, always was willing to spend the time and continue to cultivate those relationships.
“It’s funny how that works out, because all that time that Kasey spent in here, just hanging out and being a human, allowed me to be able to talk to Kirk and Alan when they heard about Oklahoma State possibly being an option for him, I was able to honestly tell them, ‘Listen, Kasey Dunn’s a good person. I think you’re in good hands up there.’ Kasey made all that happen with just being consistent and being professional all the way around.”
And now, those who watched Bowman blossom in Grapevine are anxiously awaiting his final act as a college quarterback at OSU.
“Buckle up your seatbelt and get ready for a good ride,” Bishop said.
“This is a win for Oklahoma State,” Alexander added. “And it’s a win for Alan.”

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