Gerald Bowman among top juco recruits

After graduating from Imhotep Institute (Philadelphia, Pa.) in 2008, defensive back Gerald Bowman found himself without a lot of options.

The 6-foot-1 safety was productive during his three years starting at Imhotep but didn't receive a lot of exposure.

"I think it was a combination of a few things," Bowman said. "I don't think Philadelphia is really known for football like other parts of Pennsylvania.

"We had a fairly new program at a smaller school so the scouts didn't come around and a lot of the coaches hadn't developed the connections yet. Plus I didn't know much about the camps and the offseason events. It was a lot of things."

Coming into high school I wasn't aware of everything but now that I have gone through so much of the process, I'm mature and I see the bigger picture. I know what's important and what's not important. A degree from [USC or UCLA] carries a lot of weight in the real world.

-- Gerald Bowman

Bowman did have the opportunity to go to a prep school in North Carolina after graduation but things didn't turn out like he hoped.

"The story the college gave us was a little too good to be true," Bowman said. "I went there with a friend of mine and it was really my only option out of high school."

Bowman went about the process of re-taking some courses and working towards taking his tests over again but soon things unraveled.

"The classes we were taking weren't accepted by the NCAA and in actually it was kind of a scam," Bowman said.

At that point Bowman sat out for a year and contemplated whether he was going to go the traditional route and just get an education or try to play football again.

Some of his friends stuck with football and ended up at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif.

Clinton Granger, now a quarterback at Temple, gave the Pierce coaching staff film of Bowman as he tried to convince his friend to give football another shot.

"I was discouraged after the prep school situation because I had been talking to Wisconsin about playing there," Bowman said. "And things just didn't seem to be working out."

With Granger's influence and some communication with the Pierce staff, Bowman decided to continue his athletic career.

"Clint was doing everything he could to get me out here," Bowman said. "I thought about it and basically decided I needed to make that move and give it another shot. The coach told me that he would polish up my skills and I was out there in two weeks."

Bowman finished the 2010 season with 58 tackles, one sack and an interception. He was a unanimous selection for First-Team All-Conference and First-Team Region IV All-California team.

Now one of the top junior college safety prospects in the nation, Bowman is back on track to play major college football and might stay on the West Coast to do it.

"I like the West Coast, it's pretty cool here," Bowman said. "It's different than the East Coast but it's different in a good way. The junior college football scene is big here so there's a lot of opportunity."

The safety made news when he took unofficial visits to USC and UCLA. Both schools have offered and the interest is mutual.

Bowman, however, hasn't lost sight of the effort it took to get here and wants to make sure to get everything out of his second chance.

"My main thing is the education part," Bowman said. "Coming into high school I wasn't aware of everything but now that I have gone through so much of the process I'm mature and I see the bigger picture. I know what's important and what's not important.

"A degree from either one of those schools carries a lot of weight in the real world."

Bowman said he's also visited Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State and Cal. He is looking into taking an official visit to Nebraska along with USC and Cal.

"I'm not close to making a decision yet," Bowman added. "I want to do as much research as possible because I want to make the right choice."

As for the football field, Bowman's talents have shined under coach Efrain Martinez and his staff at Pierce.

"The number one thing I can say about myself is how much I've grown in terms of understanding the game," Bowman said. "The coaches here have really worked with me on executing the plays and the schemes."

Any additional motivation Bowman needs usually comes from remembering where he's been and where he wants to go.

"When I'm in the field I play with a chip on my shoulder," Bowman said. "Going through what I went through I wear it on my sleeve. I play with a high motor and I just want to get after it on every play."

Dixon looking at the Southeast

In 2008, Travell Dixon led Miami-Dade County with seven interceptions while playing at Norland (Miami, Fla.) H.S.

The 6-2 cornerback didn't qualify coming out of high school and spent a year out of football before resurfacing at Eastern Arizona College (Thatcher, Ariz.) where he finished his freshman season with 25 tackles and two interceptions.

Now Dixon is finding himself as one of the top-rated juco defensive backs in the nation and has the chance to play major football back in the Southeast.

"I'm out here on the West Coast doing the things I need to do," Dixon said. "And I'm definitely hoping to get back to the Southeast to play but we'll see what happens."

Dixon has already taken unofficial visits to Miami and Alabama and plans to take all five of his officials this fall.

"I talked with Coach [Nick] Saban and the whole staff at Alabama," Dixon said. "They like me because I'm a big, physical cornerback and they told me about their track record with junior college players."

Dixon's interest in Miami is no surprise and even the Hurricanes' current issues with the NCAA would not stop him from returning to his hometown school.

"That wouldn't play a role at all for me because UM is always going to be a school that means something to me," Dixon added. "I love their coaches and their staff, it's close to family.

"I don't really think about all that other stuff."

Dixon said that several schools are in line for official visits. He is working on taking a visit to Cal this weekend and said that he is planning on visiting Alabama and Texas A&M in November. Florida State is also a possibility for Dixon.

Jacobs chooses Vols

Defensive tackle Damien Jacobs was supposed to be a member of FSU's 2010 recruiting class.

But the 6-4, 295-pounder out of Bourgeois H.S. (Gray, La.) could not get the necessary credits during the summer to enroll at Tallahassee and decided to attend East Mississippi Junior College (Scooba, Miss.).

Jacobs and FSU have since parted ways but the defensive tackle quickly found a new home when he committed to Tennessee over the summer.

"I kind of fell out of contact with FSU, they decided to go another direction and I had to move on," Jacobs said. "I went to Tennessee on an unofficial and fell in love with the program.

"I feel like the program is going in the right direction and I really like the coaching staff. I think they can win some games and get back to a power in the SEC."

Jacobs had a solid freshman year at East Mississippi, recording 48 tackles and four sacks in 10 games.

Although Jacobs said his commitment to Tennessee is strong, he will take other visits.

"I will be heading to Texas A&M in a couple of weeks," Jacobs said. "I'm also staying in touch with Alabama, Mississippi State and a few other programs."

Jacobs said he's on track to graduate in December and will enroll at Tennessee in January with three years to play two seasons.

Plenty of interest in Grice

Marion Grice, a former three-year starter at Nimith H.S. (Houston) has become the latest offensive star at Blinn College (Brenham, Texas), the former home of 2011 top NFL draft choice Cam Newton.

After rushing for 1,169 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman, Grice is on a pace to rush for 2,000 yards as a sophomore. In the season opener against Fort Scott (Kan.), Grice rushed for 241 yards and four touchdowns on just 16 carries.

"Right now the offense they are running is clicking for me," Grice said.

The 6-0, 210-pound prospect has offers from Arkansas, Houston, Baylor, Mississippi State and Tennessee.

Jackson moves on

TE Blake Jackson (Scottsdale, Ariz./Scottsdale JC) was listed as a lean to Miami back in July but the Hurricanes' recent issues with the NCAA have forced the 6-5, 235-pounder to back off and look elsewhere.

Jackson will be visiting Arkansas in November and Oklahoma State during the first week of November.

The former wide receiver at Gilbert H.S. (Ariz.) has thrived at Scottsdale after a freshman year with 33 receptions for 540 yards. His nine touchdown receptions were tied for first in the Western States Football League.

"Blake is one of the most impressive prospects right now in junior college," said Timmi Norland, who evaluates junior college prospects for Elite Scouting Services. "He is going to have the opportunity to be one of the premier tight ends in the country next year."

Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.