UNIVERSITY PARK - Navorro Bowman remembers the phone calls every morning, talking to his dad, Hillard, and hearing all the encouraging words.
It's been a tough year for the younger Bowman, so the Penn State linebacker needed all the encouragement he could get. He knew he could always count on his father.
''I was already going through my struggles with football and everything,'' Bowman said, ''and he's been my main supporter.''
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman gives it the old college try during the leg-lift competition Friday afternoon.
All the problems Bowman has faced in the past year now must seem minor after the life-changing event of June 16. His father, a healthy, 52-year-old man who enjoyed basketball and racing drag cars, died suddenly of a blood clot in his left leg.
Hillard Bowman was so proud his son plays for Penn State, and the 20-year-old Navorro vividly recalls the last conversation he had with his dad the day before he died.
''He didn't get a chance to pay for the season parking tickets, and he was going to have to pay every time he came up for the games,'' Bowman said Friday during Penn State's annual Lift for Life fund-raiser. ''That's the last conversation I had with my father, and I'll never forget that.''
Lift for Life results
Friday's Lift for Life raised money for Kidney Cancer Association, and in six years the event has now raised more than $300,000.
Uplifting Athletes, Inc., a group of Penn State players that coordinates Lift for Life, has raised about $75,000 this year. That figure includes all money raised Friday.
The winning team in the workout challenge was quarterback Daryll Clark, linebacker Josh Hull, tight end Greg Miskinis and tight end Mickey Shuler. Second place went to defensive end Josh Gaines, linebacker Tyrell Sales, safety Anthony Scirrotto and center A.Q. Shipley.
Bowman was at home in District Heights, Md., on June 15. He said his father had undergone surgery three weeks earlier for a basketball injury, then developed the blood clot that made its way into his heart.
''Blood clots can form many different ways and slide up,'' Navorro said.
He spent a few days with his family for the funeral services, then Bowman returned to Penn State to be with his football family.
His dad had always offered him the most support, but now Bowman is finding his teammates are there filling that role.
''My teammates have been real supportive,'' he said. ''A lot of them have been up here. We actually had like a heart to heart. This team is really coming together like a family, and when my father died, I just needed a helping hand and a family up here, and they've been here for me.''
Bowman said Joe Paterno has called him ''numerous times'' to check up on him.
''The support group is phenomenal,'' he added. ''I can't thank them enough.''
Bowman is now back with the football team after some legal troubles threatened his career. He was involved in a fight at the HUB on campus in October and charged with felony aggravated assault, leading to his temporary dismissal from the squad.
Bowman pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct in May, and the redshirt sophomore is now expected to compete for playing time this fall.
''People see him, people say he got in a situation, but they don't know who he really is,'' defensive end Josh Gaines said. ''He loves this team. He told all of us he loves us.''
Gaines has been particularly impressed with how quickly Bowman has been able to refocus after his father's death and get back to football this summer.
''His first chance he got cleared he came right back,'' Gaines said. ''He came into workouts, hasn't missed a workout since and he's been working extra hard. You've got to respect that.
''It says more than just commitment. That's respect for yourself, respect for the community as a whole. ... You've got to respect a man like that to be able to go through a situation like that and be able to bounce back up.''
Bowman said his father's passing has taught him to realize the opportunity he has at Penn State, and he plans to stay out of trouble in the future.
''I know he wants the best for me and wants me to succeed where I'm at right now,'' Bowman said, ''so I'm going to dedicate this season to him and play for him in his name.
''He was just a great dude.''
Cory Giger is at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.