LEXINGTON — Lynn Bowden is ready to take the next step on and off the field.
The Kentucky junior wide receiver and return specialist is poised for a breakout season, and that’s why he was one of three players who attended the recent Southeastern Conference Media Days with Wildcats coach Mark Stoops.
“I’m looking for him to take another step,” Stoops said. “That’s why he (was at SEC Media Days) — to continue to develop him as a leader. He’s an impact player and he’s more polished as a wide receiver. We have to find ways to get him the football. He’s dynamic and he’s a playmaker. We have to make sure we find ways to get him the ball.”
As a testament to his commitment, Bowden changed his hairstyle and his demeanor on and off the field.
“I want to be professional and that’s why I cut my hair and I wanted to grow up,” he said. “I was still being a kid for my age and I really wanted to be more grown up. You can see it with the young guys: They are looking up to me.”
Going into this season with the Wildcats, Bowden is taking a businesslike approach and is focused on achieving his goals on the field and in the classroom.
“It’s a business and that’s we came here to do,” Bowden said. “When I came here to Kentucky, I came here to get an education as well, and that’s where I’m at right now. Everything I’m doing, I’m doing it 100 percent until I can’t do it anymore, and if I have to be carried off by a stretcher that’s what I’m going to do.”
Last season, Bowden was on the receiving end of five punt returns and he returned two of those for touchdowns. He shared that role with David Bouvier but is expected to return punts on a full-time basis, giving Kentucky a solid threat on special teams. It’s a role Bowden is comfortable with and embraces.
“When I was a young kid, my uncle always told me I had good vision and so I really just play in the moment,” he said. “I’ll just be out there running and I see everything.”
When he was recruited, Bowden was being counted on to give Kentucky a solid presence on offense and special teams. It didn’t take long for Bowden to realize Lexington was his future destination.
“The culture is turning around,” Bowden said. “When I came here, they made me feel like I knew everyone since I was a young boy and I didn’t know anybody with a grain of salt. When I came here, they accepted me with open arms, even before I committed. They always kept in contact with me and I appreciated that.”
Although the Wildcats have won 24 games during the past three seasons, including 10 victories last year, Kentucky is still trying to regain respect on a yearly basis. Kentucky was picked to finish sixth in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference by league media. Bowden disputed the early predictions.
“They (think) it’s a basketball school,” he said. “It’s just reality. Nothing good coming (from football) and that’s not really what it is. Everybody (on the team) is a good player. We may still be (looked down on) by the scouts because we’re Kentucky and that’s how people think. I just think we have to get out (and prove) it every year, every time you play.”
Within the team’s locker room, Bowden said the Wildcats aren’t paying much attention to what others think.
“We think we’re going to win every game,” he said.
And Bowden is ready to build on what the team has achieved during his first two years with the Wildcats.
“I’m just grinding right now,” he said. “I’m taking everything everyone is saying and just running with it.”