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Rising star Bowman revels in second chance at Oklahoma State

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STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ The smile never seems to leave Adarius Bowman's face these days.

Whether the Oklahoma State junior is setting receiving records for the Cowboys_ as he did Saturday with a 300-yard outing against Kansas _ joking around in practice, going to class or just hanging out in his room, Bowman is always happy.

``There's never a dull moment around him,'' Bowman's teammate and roommate Victor DeGrate said.

Bowman, now the leading receiver in Division I-A at 123.8 yards per game, says he has reason to be in such a good mood _ because he got a second chance to play college football.

``I'm just trying to make the best of that opportunity, because everybody is out there helping me and supporting me,'' Bowman said.

Two years ago and halfway across the country, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Bowman started for North Carolina. Through six games of the 2004 season, the sophomore from Chattanooga, Tenn., led the Tar Heels in receiving yards and seemed primed to become a force in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Then campus police cited Bowman and two teammates for possession of marijuana, prompting North Carolina officials to suspend the players on Oct. 11. The charge against Bowman was dismissed Nov. 22, but the following February, the school said Bowman no longer was a member of the team.

When North Carolina assistant coach Gunter Brewer _ a man Bowman says is ``almost like a father to me'' _ left in early 2005 to take a job at Oklahoma State, Bowman followed. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has booted at least 11 players off the Cowboys' roster for various offenses since he took the job in January 2005, but he said he researched Bowman's situation and decided a second chance was in order.

Gundy said this week that Bowman has given him no reason to regret that decision.

``We get some guys in here who have a sketchy past with their home life, or they may have had some legal issues or some problems in school,'' Gundy said. ``But when they get in here, they have a chance to excel in our program, and if they choose to do that, then we really work with them. ... If they do something that makes us feel like they're not really committed to doing the right thing, then they're not going to be here long.''

Bowman ``has been here over a year now and I haven't heard a peep about him,'' Gundey said

That's by design, Bowman said.

``Coach Gundy gave me the opportunity to come back down here and get back in school, working toward my goal of getting a degree, and also to play ball again,'' Bowman said. ``It all started from there. I thank him for helping me out and I feel like I did a good job.''

But before his starring role, Bowman had to endure a year on the Cowboys' scout team. Teammates and coaches said Bowman did what he could to help the team _ even playing the role of Texas quarterback Vince Young for a week _ but Bowman said having to watch Oklahoma State struggle to a 4-7 record last season was difficult.

``If I had the decision to stay home (from games), I'd stay home,'' Bowman said. ``It's real hard to sit up in those stands and watch those guys play and (know that) things aren't turning out the way they wanted to. You go to practice and practice with them all week ... It was just hard doing all that work.''

Now Bowman is reaping the rewards of his hard work. He's teamed with fellow receiver D'Juan Woods _ who typically receives most of the double-teams from opposing defenses _ and quarterback Bobby Reid to lead Oklahoma State (4-2, 1-1 Big 12), which will host No. 23 Texas A&M (6-1, 2-1) on Saturday.

Bowman likely could earn his degree before the start of next season, prompting questions about whether he's considered entering the NFL draft early. He said he hasn't thought much about it.

Gundy puts it more bluntly: ``He's not ready for the NFL ... He needs to graduate, and then he can go do whatever he wants. He can play for 10 years when he leaves here, so he might as well do it after he has a degree.''

No matter that decision, Bowman said he's learned a valuable lesson.

``Me going through that experience I went through at Carolina has prepared me so much for life, realizing how much things can just turn around,'' he said. ``You can be on this side, and in seconds, it can be the other way around, because of your mistakes and your decisions.''
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