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Former Lions LB Bowen to continue career in Pac-12

Manny Bowen, who started 21 games during a three-year Penn State career, has found his next home in college football. The linebacker, who carries one remaining season of collegiate eligibility, announced intent to attend Utah in 2019 via a Wednesday morning tweet.

Bowen, who parted ways with the Nittany Lions in August, shared some thoughts on his decision.

“Have you ever realized how small the rear-view mirror is compared to the windshield? No matter what happens, I will never have any regrets, and look back on the past,” he wrote. “My eyes are focused on the road ahead of me.”

That road leads to Salt Lake City, where the Utes are preparing for an appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Utah, led by coach Kyle Whittingham, is 8-3 this season and ranked 18th in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll.

Bowen, who took an official visit to Utah earlier this month, shared midseason he was exploring options for the final phase of his college football career. He is primed to graduate from Penn State in December, free to transfer to another university without having to sit out next season.

Bowen was out of football this fall following a bizarre series of events.

After starting the first nine games of 2017, Bowen missed the final three regular-season matchups and was removed from the roster during Fiesta Bowl preparation. Penn State did not provide specific details regarding what led to Bowen’s dismissal and, as it became clear this summer, the door was never completely shut on his ability to wear a Nittany Lions uniform again.

“We created some stipulations for Manny to achieve from the time he left the program and if he lived up to his end of the bargain, then he would have an opportunity to earn his way back on the roster,” Penn State coach James Franklin said upon Bowen’s roster reinstatement at the start of preseason camp.

Defensive coordinator Brent Pry also addressed the situation when camp began.

“Manny had a laundry list of things to kind of earn his way back and gain some trust,” Pry said. “He did an outstanding job with it. To be honest, I’m not surprised. He’s a very determined young man. It’s good to have him back out there. I have a lot of love for Manny.”

Even as staff members and players struck an optimistic tone in early August, Franklin and Pry cautioned about the uncertain nature of his anticipated impact.

“I can’t tell you what his role on the team is going to be like to be honest with you, I have no idea,” Franklin said “But I do think the plan in place was the right thing to do for Manny and gives him the best opportunity in December for him to graduate from Penn State. Everything else is icing on the cake.”

Midway through preseason camp, Franklin confirmed Bowen would not start in the season opener. Days before a Sept. 1 season opener vs. Appalachian State, an official statement from Penn State Athletics confirmed he was no longer with the program.

“Honestly, it’s not disappointing at all,” Nittany Lions linebacker Cam Brown said soon afterward. “Manny went ahead and made the decision to focus on school and pretty much that was it.”

Brown, Koa Farmer and Jan Johnson have occupied starting linebacker roles in 2018, while redshirt freshman Ellis Brooks and true freshman Micah Parsons (the team’s leader in tackles despite starting only one game) have also been key contributors.

Bowen, a member of Penn State’s 2015 recruiting class assembled during Franklin and Pry’s first full recruiting cycle with the program, totaled 51 tackles — 3.5 for loss — and 1.5 sacks last season. His next chance to chase down ball-carriers will come with a new squad.

“I am more than excited for the opportunities that have come my way,” Bowen wrote Wednesday. “Nothing left to say. Let’s get after it.”

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