Number adds up for Penn State's Bowman

April, 15, 2009
4/15/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- It starts with the simplest of equations -- 1+1=2 -- but the signficance for Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman can't be quantified.

 
  Randy Litzinger/Icon SMI
  Navorro Bowman will honor two influential figures in his life with a number change this season.

When Bowman takes the field this fall for Penn State, he'll don jersey No. 11, which serves as a tribute to two influential figures in his life.

The first should be obvious for Penn State fans.

LaVar Arrington crafted his Penn State legacy wearing No. 11, winning the Bednarik and Butkus awards and twice earning All-America honors in Happy Valley. The former Lions linebacker has mentored Bowman since Bowman's high school days, and called him last year with a special request. 

"We were already friends, and he called and asked me, 'What do you think about wearing 11?'" Bowman said. "I was like, 'I wouldn't mind it.'"

Arrington wanted Bowman to change numbers last year, but cornerback Tony Davis still had dibs on No. 11. Bowman wore No. 18 last season, and when Davis graduated, he made the switch. 

There's added pressure to wearing the same jersey and playing the same position as a Penn State linebacker great, but Bowman appears ready for it. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore, leading the team in tackles (106) and tackles for loss (16.5) to go along with four sacks, two forced fumbles and five pass breakups. 

The comparisons between Bowman and Arrington have been made for some time. The number on Bowman's back this fall will only keep them coming. 

"Him being able to see his number on somebody else at this university is really what he wanted," Bowman said, "and I didn't have a problem doing it for him. LaVar's been a guy who's had the answers to my questions. I couldn't ask for a better friend.

 
  AP Photo/Tom Strickland
  LaVar Arrington won the Butkus, Bednarik and Lambert awards in 1999.

"Hopefully, after everything is done with, I'll be able to say thank you for him letting me wear his number. It's an honor to me, just as it's a happy moment for him."

The jersey number strikes another emotional chord for Bowman.

He wore No. 2 at Suitland High School in District Heights, Md., where he starred for head coach Nick Lynch. Penn State wideout Derrick Williams held the rights to No. 2 when Bowman arrived, so he switched to 18. 

Although No. 2 now belongs to wide receiver Chaz Powell, Bowman will still be able to honor his high school days and Lynch. The coach was killed in a car accident early on Dec. 31, the day before Bowman took the field in the Rose Bowl against USC.

He'll remember Lynch every time he looks at the two 1's on his jersey. 

"I wanted to make both ends happy," Bowman said. "One and one added up to two, so I said I'd wear No. 11 in honor of my coach and in honor of LaVar."

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