Fowler blocks out new territory

January 14, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

The year was 1970 and Wayne Fowler was in his rookie season as an offensive lineman on the same team with the man who would become an NFL legend.

Fowler was on the Buffalo Bills' kickoff return team and, on occasion, so was O. J. Simpson. All of which reminds Fowler of a story.

One day Simpson broke loose and was racing down the sideline. Seeing a defender closing in on Simpson, Fowler tried to spear the prospective tackler, but succeeded only in spearing O. J. on the back of the leg. Simpson was carried off the field on a stretcher.

"On Page 1 of the Buffalo paper the next day, there were two photographs," Fowler said. "One of me hitting him, the other of O. J. being hauled off on a stretcher."

Amazingly, Fowler wasn't run out of town until the following year.

Cut by Buffalo after the last exhibition game in 1971, Fowler was picked up by the Green Bay Packers and survived part of the season before coach Dan Devine advised him to pursue his calling as a salesman.

"Short but sweet," Fowler said of his NFL experience.

So what is this man doing as coach of the Severn boys basketball team? A man who never played basketball, who went through Glen Burnie High as a football and baseball player and wrestler?

In 1984 Fowler's son Brad was playing for a Severna Park 9-10 boys basketball team under Ed Wilson, "the Morgan Wootten of rec ball," according to Fowler, referring to DeMatha's coach. Wilson asked him to help, and Fowler's basketball coaching career was launched.

He read basketball books, studied films, attended camps. He had his own 9-10 team the following year, and it included Steve Wojciechowski,the Cardinal Gibbons senior star who is bound for Duke.

"I operated on Lefty Driesell's theory -- if you don't know what you're doing, go out and get great players," Fowler said wryly.

Four years ago, Severn basketball coach Jim Doyle asked Fowler to work with some players in a summer league, where they would face stiffer competition. Two years ago, Doyle asked him to be his assistant.

"I got hooked," Fowler said. "I was obsessive. And I fell in love with the school. A hundred percent of the kids go on to college."

Fowler became head coach this season after Doyle, who directed the football and basketball teams for eight years, felt the need to spend more time with his business.

From the team that went 25-2 last season and won the school's first Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference championship in boys basketball, Fowler lost Brad, Severn's all-time leading scorer and a first-team All-County selection,and second-team All-County choice Jamand Mack.

But with a 14-2 record going into tonight's game at Boys' Latin, Severn is on its way to a fourth straight 20-win season. The starters are John Vereen, James Carpenter, Alhamisi Simms, Jaylonnie Booth and Joe Burke. Simms and Booth are transfers from Annapolis and Broadneck, respectively.

In real life, Fowler is owner of Fowler Advertising, a $19 million regional agency with 11 employees. In his avocation, he has wound up where few of his old Glen Burnie High chums in the class of 1966 would have predicted.

As a lineman, Fowler was second team All-County as a senior on the Glen Burnie team that went 8-2. As a 180-pound heavyweight wrestler, he was undefeated until he ran afoul of Brooklyn Park's Joe Lauman. As a first baseman-outfielder-catcher, he was the MVP of the Gophers' baseball team with aspirations of becoming a major-leaguer.

Instead, he went to work in a plastics plant to make money so he could marry his high school sweetheart, Connie, now his wife.

But during the summer, Snuffy Smith, Baltimore Junior College's head baseball coach and football defensive coordinator, persuaded Fowler to enroll.

"I had gone from 180 to 260 pounds in a few months by eating four or five meals a day," Fowler said. "After I told Snuffy I had taken my $5 to Mrs. Heath in admissions, he told me to report for football practice the next day."

Two years later he was at Richmond, one of 11 prize recruits brought in to try to reverse the fortunes of a program that had produced only three victories in the previous two seasons.

Richmond went 8-2 and beat Ohio in the Tangerine Bowl. The next season Richmond was 7-3 and Fowler played in the Senior Bowl under Don Shula.

He was selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft and went on to his career with the Bills.

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