'Bachelor' Sean Lowe played ball at K-State

Sean Lowe played college football at Kansas State before becoming the "Bachelor." Craig Sjodin/ABC/Getty Images

A year ago, Sean Lowe was selling State Farm Insurance in Dallas and running his family's online fashion and furniture store.

Fast-forward to Monday night at 8 p.m. on ABC, and Lowe is starring in the 17th edition of the romance reality series "The Bachelor."

"Never in a million years did I expect to be here," said the 28-year-old Lowe, who is a graduate of Kansas State University where he played football and graduated with a degree in social science. "It's mind-blowing if you think about where I was a year ago."

All that changed when Lowe's sister, Shay, and her husband turned in Lowe's name as an applicant for "The Bachelorette" in September 2011.

"Why not? He's cute, single, 28, and a fabulous guy," Shay Lowe said on her website.

Lowe, who had been working in his family's business and still selling insurance, joined the show and was instantly a fan favorite. He was eliminated by Emily Maynard right before the finale. Because of the fans, ABC brought Lowe back to become this spring's "Bachelor."

"From insurance salesman to modeling to this?" said the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Lowe. "I could have never imagined."

Playbook talked with Lowe about his football career, working out and what to expect this season.

How did you get to Kansas State to play football?

"I played two years of high school football in Texas and started out as a linebacker. I was starting to get recruited, and I visited Manhattan, Kan., and figured that was the place for me."

How much playing time did you get?

"I played four years. I had a full scholarship. I played for Coach Bill Snyder. What an experience that was. He was a tough coach from the old school. We had a lot of long practices and a lot of hours in the weight room. And we spent a lot of hours watching film. I had buddies at other schools who talked about their concentrated, short practices. We're out there for three hours, Monday through Wednesday, in full pads! But playing for Coach Snyder helped me tremendously with self-discipline, leadership and understanding the meaning of hard work."

Was it your goal to get to the NFL?

"I went to K-State like most college football players with the hopes of one day playing in the NFL. I was recruited as a strongside linebacker. The previous three were drafted in the NFL. I had a lot of success early on, but I had a terrible game the first game of my sophomore year and it was topsy-turvy from there. Unfortunately, my career didn't end up the way I wanted, but life rarely goes as planned."

So, with football not an option, what did you want to do?

"I just wanted to get into the real world. I wanted to start living a normal life. I had entrepreneurial aspirations. After graduating, I had a number of jobs. I tried everything. Being early to mid-20s, I wanted to get a feel for the real world."

Then the reality world came calling with the "Bachelorette."

"My sister signed me up for the show. I didn't really want to do it. It took me by surprise. I didn't want to subject myself to public criticism. Then the casting agent said I would get to do some cool things like travel. I agreed to do it. Never in a million years, did I think I would have real feelings for a girl on a reality show. But five or six weeks into it, I did. I fell for Emily. She then sent me home near the end. I went through all that heartbreak that you'd expect. I guess America had a lot of sympathy for me and called on me to be the 'Bachelor.' I did have a positive experience and I hope to recapture some of those feelings. My emotions on this show are real."

I understand religion is a big part of your life and will be part of the show?

"Yes, I was very lucky and blessed to grow up in a home where faith is center. At some point each person needs to take ownership of that. I probably didn't take ownership until my mid-20s. That's when I became more mature in my faith. That's the best decision of my life. You'll see it talked about on the show. If it's the center of my life, I want it to be the center of my spouse's life as well."

OK, here's a not-so-serious question: All these bloggers are talking about how you love to take your shirt off. True?

"[Laughs] Typically I'm a moderation guy. If I don't have a fitness shoot, I'll eat healthy for the most part. But if I want to have pizza with my friends, I do. I do about an hour at the gym and 30 minutes of cardio. If I have a fitness shoot, I'm hard-core. I have to monitor every gram of sugar and fat. I bump up the cardio to an hour a day. I have very little energy. It takes a ton of work to get that shredded look. There is very little money in fitness modeling. I just like doing it as a challenge. I do it to prove to myself that I can attain that kind of body."

OK, so are you ready for the criticism that will come from this show when you cast off the women?

"As much as I'd like to say I don't pay attention to the press, it's hard not to. I know that negative criticism is coming my way. I'm prepared to handle that. I went on the show staying true to who I am as a person and what I believe are the best decisions for me. I think hopefully it's conveyed to the people who watch the show. Hopefully America can sympathize with the position I'm in. I know I have to break some girls' hearts and I'm put in that tough position. At the end of the day, I was making the best decisions for me."