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Sergeant mentors son to NFL career

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Parents usually have dreams for their children, whether it's to see them become an astronaut, doctor or lawyer.

Children have their own dreams, from being a race car driver to a rock star.

An NCO stationed here shared a dream with his son, which recently came true ... a chance to play in the National Football League.

Zack Bowman, the 23-year-old son of Master Sgt. Zackary Bowman, was drafted by the Chicago Bears April 27. Sergeant Bowman said this opportunity is not wasted on his son.

"He'll be a good fit for the NFL, because his character is really good," he said. "I feel excited for him."

The excitement continues for the younger Bowman, who traveled from Omaha, Neb., to Chicago Thursday through Sunday to meet with the team. Traveling, though, is nothing new to Zack, who virtually grew up in the Air Force. He was born in North Carolina, and then moved with his parents to Germany, South Carolina, Virginia and eventually to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.

Throughout those years, Sergeant Bowman gave his son advice and tips, not only on sports, but on how to be a good person.

"He just always puts it straight, you know, 'We have to live with the decisions that we make,'" Zack said, relating his father's advice. "I took that to heart. Whenever I had an opportunity to prove myself or to do something, I made sure that I did it."

It was in Anchorage that he proved himself an athlete at Bartlett High School. While he was on the basketball team, they twice took first place in state championships. In his junior year, his football team was runner-up for the state championship, and in his senior year they placed first. That was also the year that his football coach decided to move him from offense to defense.

"It's kind of like looking at Randy Moss out there against a little five-foot-nine guy, because he was that tall over the rest of those short guys," Sergeant Bowman said.

His success continued in college. He was the No. 2 ranked player in the nation for junior colleges and eventually one of the captains for the Nebraska football team.

"All the times I watched him play football, he always did so spectacular," Sergeant Bowman said. "Every game, there's something he's going to do to make me hold my breath."

Watching his son turn into a star high school athlete, Sergeant Bowman said he always took the opportunity to give his son advice along the way. While Zack was away at college, Sergeant Bowman was still there, this time by telephone, to guide his oldest child. And now, preparing for a career in the NFL, Zack said his father is continuing the tradition.

"'Don't take nobody lightly, always take somebody seriously; even if you know you're better than them or that you can beat them, just go ahead and do it,'" Zack said, quoting his father. "I always go to him for advice and wisdom. He's the one person I can turn to."