Cornerback Zack Bowman, a seven-year NFL veteran who is in his first season with the New York Giants, smiled when Prince Amukamara’s name came up in conversation.
“He was a goofball,” Bowman said as he chuckled at the memory of his one-time college teammate at the University of Nebraska. “If you go and look at his pictures from back then, he had a high-cut fade, like the Gumby look.”
Amukamara was also a bit “outside of the box,” according to Bowman, who revealed that the coach that recruited both cornerbacks for Nebraska, Bill Busch (now with Wisconsin) made sure to ask Bowman to look after Amukamara.
The bond still exists to this day—Bowman admits to still being very protective of Amukamara in the Giants locker room.
“I’m not going to let nobody dog Prince,” Bowman said, his tone turning to that of a big brother issuing a stern reminder to not mess with his little brother.
“If anybody’s going to dog him, it’s going to be me. I’m not going to let anyone else dog him,” Bowman said.
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Watch any Giants practice during training camp, and chances are you’ll see Bowman in Amukamara’s ear.
Whether it’s discussing the play that just occurred, or pointing out something with Amukamara’s technique, Bowman’s belief in Amukamara is so strong that he sometimes forgets that they play the same position.
That’s easy for Bowman to do because as far as he’s concerned, if sharing the benefit of his experience, which includes 23 career starts (out of 73 games), leads to wins, he’ll happily take a seat behind his one-time protégé.
“He’s very receptive because they’re small things I teach him to try to help him out and put him in better positions so he’s able to make more plays,” Bowman said.
“At the end of the day, that’s the objective because the more plays he makes, the more we win.”
Bowman’s selflessness started at Nebraska but really came full circle as a member of the Bears, a group that he described as a “tight-knit” secondary.
“It didn’t matter who was starting – we were all starters in our minds,” he said. “If you’re number is called you just have to be ready to go. If not, then you have to be ready to help those whose numbers are called.”
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When Bowman and Amukamara were in college, the “big brother” admitted to wondering at times what he had gotten himself into with his new “little brother.”
“There was a time when I had to take him shopping for a new suit,” Bowman recalled, adding that he had to explain to Amukamara why having a suit was just as important as having his helmet and shoulder pads for football games.
Another thing that perplexed Bowman was that Amukamara liked to wear his socks inside out.
“So one day one of the guys asked him why he wore his socks inside out and he pulled up information from Dr. Scholl’s about the benefits of wearing your socks inside out.”
Bowman’s best story, however, involved a social faux pas he saw Amukamara commit.
“We’re walking around campus,” Bowman recalled. “Prince has his socks on inside out, naturally, when we meet this girl. So he’s talking to this girl and then he starts picking his nose right in front of her.”
Bowman shook his head at the memory, smiling at the same time. “I’m like, ‘Dude you can’t do that. You can’t start picking your nose in front of a girl. With your boys, whatever, but in front of a girl? I mean have a little bit of respect.’”
Amukamara, who was married this offseason, laughed when reminded of the story. “I honestly don’t remember that,” he said, though he added that it sounds like something he would have done.
“I probably didn’t like the girl that much. That’s probably why I did it,” he added with a cheeky grin.
Amukamara paused several seconds when asked if he had a good story about Bowman.
“No, I can’t think of one,” he said.
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This offseason, when Bowman was contemplating his options during free agency, one of the first people he called was Amukamara.
“I called Prince up to tell him that the Giants were interested in me. He told me that if I came here, I’d fit in well and love it here,” Bowman said. “It was one of the things where he was like, ‘As a cornerback, do I want you to come? Nah, but as a friend and to help us get to the Super Bowl and stuff like that, yeah.’”
“He’s definitely a play maker and he’s relentless,” Amukamara said of Bowman, “He won’t ever give up. He does all the little things and he does them the right way.”
Although Amukamara is entrenched as the starter, he admits to lapping up the advice he received from his friend no matter how minute.
“He has more years on me and he’s in a new system, but he has taught us a lot with making it a mentality to get the ball out like they do in Chicago,” Amukamara said of one of the things Bowman has been working with him.
In return, Amukamara said he’s hoping to reciprocate all the help Bowman has given him since he’s arrived here, but added, “I don’t think he need much help from me because he’s a very smart guy with the playbook. But if he does, I’ll definitely be there to help him.”