Guard endures tough year with deaths in family
When the Rutgers football team lost 49-14 to Houston on Oct. 26, senior guard Antwan Lowery’s day was significantly worse.
“I had to bury my grandmother,” Lowery said yesterday post-practice. “It was hard for me to be away from the team.”
Lowery’s grandmother’s death piled another unfortunate event to Lowery’s final year with the Scarlet Knights. Seemingly nothing went his way in 2013.
His grandmother raised him and his brother — former Knights linebacker Antonio Lowery — until Antwan Lowery was five.
Antwan Lowery’s grandfather passed away during training camp. He said his grandfather came around pretty often when he grew up.
Then the Miami, Fla., native struggled on the field. After allowing only one sack last year, Antwan Lowery lost his starting left guard job in spring practice.
Head coach Kyle Flood switched offensive line starters around last spring, which included shifting junior left tackle Kaleb Johnson to left guard and benching Antwan Lowery.
It turned out Flood’s intentions were more than bluffing to motivate his veterans. Antwan Lowery never started again, but he tried not to let personal issues affect him on the field.
His grandmother gave him the strength for these situations.
“Growing up, we had a lot of hard times living with my grandmother, making ends meet, different things,” Antwan Lowery said. “But she found a way to provide for us and just to make us feel comfortable. Growing up, just to see the struggle that she went through, it made me and my brother tough.”
Rutgers recruited him in 2008 as a defensive tackle out of Christopher Columbus (Fla.) High School. Antonio Lowery was already with Rutgers, and a brotherly connection helps accelerate recruiting processes, Flood said.
“I think that what you know is the family and you know the family values and you know how they were raised and how they were coached,” Flood said. “… [But most Rutgers brothers] all had different personalities. None of them were recruited because they had siblings.”
Antwan and Antonio are certainly different.
“My brother’s probably a more social person,” Antwan Lowery said. “He can brighten a room in an instant. I’m probably more of a quiet kind of guy.”
Switching from defensive tackle to offensive line was one of Antwan Lowery’s first challenges at Rutgers.
Antwan Lowery was 2008’s ninth-best defensive tackle recruit nationally, according to ESPN. The change to offense flipped his football approach.
“On defense, you can go out and do your assignment and just attack,” he said. “On offense, it’s different. You really have to be on your Ps and Qs.”
Lowery’s first eligible year was 2010, when Rutgers allowed 61 sacks. The Knights put those failures behind them, surrendering just 11 sacks last year.
“When you play offensive line, you don’t want to be in the spotlight,” said senior right tackle Andre Civil, who was also a redshirt freshman in 2010. “When you’re in the spotlight, you’re in the spotlight for doing something wrong.”
Antwan Lowery’s work paid off to get him all 13 starts last year, but he only played nine games sparingly this season.
This year had promising potential for Antwan Lowery, who landed on Phil Steele, SI.com and Athlon Preseason All-AAC First Teams.
It was not the way Antwan Lowery wanted his senior season to go, but he still feels blessed for being on the team and having good health, he said.
But 2014 might be his year.
Lowery accepted an invitation yesterday to the Jan. 18’s NFLPA Collegiate Bowl for draft-eligible players.
He is sure his grandparents will watch.
“I just know that both my grandfather my and grandmother would always be waiting on the football field,” he said. “Now they have a perfect view watching me. I took it as that. They won’t have to order me on TV anymore to watch me. They can just watch it from heaven.”
Rushing struggles and sophomore running back P.J. James’ lower leg injury forced Flood to get creative with the running game.
Rutgers used one-back sets more frequently Saturday against Connecticut.
“Sometimes you separate the defense with blocking and sometimes you separate the defense formational,” Flood said of the sets.
The offense will not alter its philosophy for alternating reps if James, who Flood said is “50/50” to play, cannot go.
The Daily Targum ranked the top 10 players in the Rutgers football senior class. The Targum will reveal more of the countdown throughout the week before revealing the complete list in Friday’s GameDay issue.