Central Catholic's Jase Bowen tags out Clay's Jack Winckowski during baseball game at Mercy Field in Toledo.
When it came right down to it, Central Catholic junior two-sport star Jase Bowen wanted to keep his dream alive and his future options open.
The Fighting Irish football receiver and baseball shortstop — who last year committed to Notre Dame for the latter sport — will instead play both sports at Michigan State.
Bowen, 17, verbally committed to a football scholarship offer from Michigan State on Saturday before the Spartans’ spring game. The clincher in his decision was that MSU will allow Bowen to also play baseball for the Spartans.
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“I always wanted to go to college for free and play both sports, and Michigan State gave me that opportunity,” Bowen said. “It’s obviously a dream come true.
“Also, Michigan State just treated me so well. I always felt like family there, and I’m big on that. I want to go somewhere where I’m loved, and this was a good fit for me.”
Bowen said having the chance to play both sports at the college level was not an ultimatum for the college football programs recruiting him, but it was definitely a high priority. He hopes someday to play one of the sports professionally.
“It was something I pushed for,” Bowen said, “because it’s been my dream to do both.”
According to Bowen, Notre Dame welcomed him to play football, but did not offer him a full scholarship to do so. His baseball commitment there was to be under a partial scholarship.
At Michigan State, Bowen said during the Spartans’ spring practice, he will be permitted to join the baseball team on game days, but will practice football on all other days during the overlapping period.
“I think it’s great for him to have a chance to compete at that level for a program like Michigan State, where there’s a possibility of doing both sports,” Central football coach Greg Dempsey said. “Michigan State was also high on his list when he was making his baseball decision [last year]. It keeps a lot of options open for him.”
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Bowen has been a dynamic playmaker on the football field for the Irish, possessing breakaway speed, the agility to get open on shorter routes, and the ability to consistently catch the football.
“Jase has explosiveness in terms of beating you deep and catching short passes and making moves that turn into explosive plays,” Dempsey said. “He’s gotten a lot bigger and stronger here in the offseason, and has also gotten faster. That’s something that’s gotten the Big Ten schools and other Power Five [conference] schools looking at him.
“He’s a dynamic player that can stretch you vertically, or work the underneath stuff out of the slot. He’s going to be able to do a lot for any team. His ball skills are phenomenal. He makes the tough catch look like an easy catch.”
Other colleges that offered Bowen a full football scholarship with permission to also play baseball included Minnesota and Northwestern from the Big Ten, Toledo, Bowling Green, Akron, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan from the Mid-American Conference, as well as Cincinnati, Kentucky, Virginia, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, and Army. Iowa State, which does not have a baseball program, also offered Bowen a football scholarship.
In football, Bowen started at receiver on Central teams that reached the Division III state semifinal the past two seasons, earning first-team All-TRAC honors each year.
This past season he caught 15 passes for 392 yards (26.1-yard average), rushed 57 times for 450 yards, returned 19 punts for a 14.3-yard average, and scored 14 total touchdowns. He also punted for a 37.1-yard average, and was named first-team D-III all-district at that position.
Already a two-year starter in baseball prior to this season, last year Bowen hit .430 with 36 runs scored, 17 RBI, and 26 stolen bases. He was named first-team All-Three Rivers Athletic Conference in 2017 after receiving second-team recognition as a freshman in 2016.
“It’s obviously very difficult to do both, but if anyone can do it I think Jase is one that can get it done,” Central baseball coach Jeff Mielcarek said of Bowen’s quest to play football and baseball. “Jase’s work ethic is outstanding, and his baseball instincts will get him through a lot of the things he might miss in terms of practices because of football.
“He’s the best freshman I’ve coached, and he’s the best sophomore I’ve coached. He might end up being the best player, but he’s still got two more years to go. We’ll see what happens.”
In addition to his superb skills in football and baseball, Bowen also excels in the classroom at Central, where his 4.8 cumulative grade-point average ranks No. 6 in his class.
“It’s a relief to have it done now so I can just focus in on baseball, and when football comes not having to worry about college,” Bowen said. “I can devote my time to my teams at Central.”
Bowen said he plans to be a business major in college.
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