For a player who is supposed to be so mean on the field, new Kansas University defensive tackle Keon Stowers sure seems awfully nice off of it.
And you can bet that Stowers has heard about that more than once.
Blessed with the size and strength to play defensive tackle and the smile to play a starring role in a children’s play, the Georgia Military College transfer has spent much of his career trying to overcome his good-guy image.
“My coaches always joke around with me saying I’m too nice and all of this,” Stowers said before reporting to campus in early June. “But once I get on the field and show people what I can do, that quiets up people pretty quick.”
Originally from Northwestern High in Rock Hill, S.C., Stowers spent the past two seasons at Georgia Military adjusting to the college game. While that included obvious tasks such as endless hours in the weight room, studying film at all times of day and lots of practices, Stowers said he also tried hard to keep himself from smiling so much.
“I try to be a good guy off the field, and I try to smile all the time,” Stowers said. “But once you step onto the gridiron, it’s all a different story. You try to be the best player possible first, and then you bring the nasty after that.”
There has been nothing nasty about Stowers’ life since signing with Georgia Military out of high school. After earning all-region honors after a 95-tackle senior season at NHS, Stowers went on to help GMC rank as the 14th best defense in the country last season, when he recorded 26 tackles, three for loss, and two interceptions.
Now he has his sights set on bringing that type of production to Lawrence, where early playing time figures to be within reach.
“That was really one of my deciding points when choosing Kansas — the opportunity to play and the lack of depth at that position,” Stowers said. “That was their selling point, too. (This offseason, defensive coordinator Dave) Campo was reminding me that they’re really thin there, and they’re really counting on me to be one of the guys to come in and help fill that void there.”
Talks such as those inspired Stowers to work as hard in the weight room as he did on developing a mean face, and the efforts appeared to pay off. When Stowers signed with KU, he was listed at 272 pounds.
A few weeks after graduation, back home in South Carolina, he was up to 283. And by the time he left for KU, he was just six pounds shy of his goal of 295.
“I’ve put on a good little bit of weight,” he said.
Stowers will room with fellow defensive lineman Ty McKinney, a transfer from Trinity Valley CC in Texas, and in addition to competing for playing time, the two will look to build on a friendship that began during the offseason.
“We’ve gotten to know each other a lot,” Stowers said. “He’s decided to bring the TV, and I’m bringing the Xbox, so we’ll take the friendship from there.”