Voted on by the players, the Ed Block Courage Award is given to the player on each team that has shown extraordinary courage in the face of adversity.
Even though he’s only been in town for about four months, defensive end Stephen Bowen was the logical choice for this year’s award, exemplifying the selfless approach to the game that defines high character.
On June 28, 2011, Bowen and his wife were blessed with the birth of twin boys. Sadly, they were born four months premature, and together only weighed 2 pounds 12 ounces. On July 5, Skyler passed away, while Stephen III remained in a Dallas hospital in neonatal intensive care.
Bowen signed with Washington on July 30, leaving his family’s side in order to provide for them. He was in the team facilities early in the morning trying to learn a brand new playbook. He worked all day in the hot sun to get up to speed with his teammates. But when he wasn’t engrossed with football, his thoughts were a thousand miles away in a Dallas hospital room.
“I just try to separate the two, just try to clear my mind,” he said yesterday. “When I’m on the field, it’s all about football.”
Two weeks ago in Seattle, Bowen suffered a partial PCL tear in his knee. Once he was able to practice on it early in the week, he committed to playing through the pain in order to be there for his teammates.
Then on Sunday morning before the Jets game, he awoke to news that his mother-in-law had succumbed to her battle with muscular dystrophy and passed away at age 59. Once again, he looked back on his commitment to the team, and he found the strength to play.
“Last game was really hard, I’m not gonna lie,” he admitted. “I was losing focus a lot and I just tried to do the best I could. But I think it was the right decision. I know she would have said she would have wanted me to play. It’s just a game-time decision I had to make.”
Despite his huge emotional burden, Bowen has remained a man of positive action and positive thinking. His 43 tackles, six for a loss, 4.5 sacks and fumble recovery are all career-highs. His positive attitude and team-first mentality have made him a favorite among teammates.
“His story is amazing with everything that he’s been through,” said nose tackle Barry Cofield. “Y’know, he comes in here with a smile on his face and he works hard. He plays great football and he deserves that award. We’re pulling him and he’s an inspiration to all of us.”
Bowen said that he’s proud to have the respect of his teammates, but of course wishes that he wasn’t in a position to receive the award.
“I’m glad they recognized that I’m still trying to work hard and get it done on the field,” he said. But I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. It’s really hard, especially with all the stuff happening in one year, withint a span of like five months.”
“I’ve been just trying to stay strong for my family and just be the best teammate I can be.”
Bowen reports that Stepehen Bowen III is a happy, healthy baby boy, now past the health problems that come with prematurity, and weighing in at 13 pounds.
“He’s strong, he’s strong, man,” he said with a smile.
Watch Bowen’s full media address, below:
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