Journal West 10 Media is presenting, for the first time, Athlete of the Year awards to an outstanding young woman and man who excelled in three sports within the company’s coverage area.
Last week, Bethany Berger of Tipton-Rosemark Academy won the female award. Jonathan Bowlan of Bartlett High School took home the 2015 Journal West 10 Media Male Athlete of the Year Award.
Like Berger, Bowlan also won the Commercial Appeal’s Best of the Preps District 1 Male Athlete of the Year award. He was All-Metro in football, basketball and baseball his senior season.
He will play baseball, his preferred and self-declared best sport, for the University of Memphis next year.
The 6-foot 6-inch 203-pound quarterback/punter/bigman/pitcher/first-baseman routinely deferred praise to teammates and coaches. That’s not to say he doesn’t appreciate the honor — he was all smiles when he received his plaque last Thursday. But Bowlan is the type of player who doesn’t revel in the spotlight.
He realizes how important team play is to both his own success and the success of the school.
“I just went out there, and I was playing ball, having fun, enjoying every minute of it,” he said.
He transferred from Arlington High School the summer before his senior year. But, after a brief transition period, he began to feel comfortable at Bartlett.
“I knew people at Bartlett,” he said. “It was hard at first, but then I started to get to know people.”
His play on the football field helped him gain notoriety at the school. The team made the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and posted a .500 or better record for the first time since 2003. The offense broke records with Bowlan under center — he alone holds 14 records and the offense tied for ninth all-time for most points in a season.
“Every game we played we got better and better,” he said. “We were practicing hard, working on things we needed to work on. Coaches helped us out — it was good coaching, great coaching.
“It was exciting throughout the whole school,” he continued. “[Other students] always talked about last week’s game, and I’m focusing on next week. I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, but that’s in the past. We got to keep playing.’”
While Bowlan thrived at Bartlett, his most memorable basketball and baseball events occurred while he was still at Arlington.
“My junior year at Arlington [the basketball team] made it to state. We made it to the semifinals,” he said. “The game before making it to state, the sub-state game, we played White Station, and we were the underdog. So that game was crazy. It was very very fun. It was all team. We had a great team my junior year. We were like brothers.”
But nothing can top America’s pastime for Bowlan, who could have been drafted within the first 10 rounds of the MLB draft. His crowning achievement on the baseball diamond was the state championship he won with Arlington his freshman season.
“It was exciting just being there,” he said. “And then afterward, I was just shocked. I had tears of joy coming out because I was like, ‘This is crazy, this is a once-in-a- lifetime thing.’”
While that moment couldn’t be topped for Bowlan, his favorite season was his senior year at Bartlett.
“The team, we were just, all in one,” he explained. “We always helped each other out in every situation we had. And to me that’s more important than winning a state championship, being close to your team.”
Bowlan didn’t take his playing time for granted, nor did he undersell the importance of those around him who made him better. So, when he heard he would be Journal West 10 Media’s Male Athlete of the Year, he felt humbled by the honor.
“It’s great,” he said. “It was surprising, I didn’t see it coming. I was just out there playing my game.”
Written by Mac Trammell, special to the Express. Contact him at email@example.com.