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Relaxed Bowers ready to lead Esperanza
Moments before stepping into his interview for the head coaching position at Esperanza High, Gary Bowers – an alum, Class of 1997 – received big news from his wife, Katie.
Unaware of Gary's impending interview, his second in two weeks, Katie called her husband of almost four years and revealed she was pregnant with their first child.
"After hearing that, right away, I was loose," said Bowers, 34. "Like, who cares after that? Nothing they were going to tell me was better than that."
An offensive line coach at Fullerton College this past season, Bowers – who went through the same interview process at Canyon High a week prior – breezed through the ensuing series of questions, many of which were from his former prep coaches and current Esperanza assistants, Gary Meek and Bill Pendleton.
"I was not even close to being ready for the Canyon interview," he admitted. "When I went to Esperanza, I was ready to go. I honestly knew I was going to get that job. I knew all the traditions, and knew I didn't need to reinvent the wheel at a program with 40 years of excellence."
Ten years prior to the winter interview at his alma mater, Bowers – fresh out of Tarleton State University, a Division II school in Stephenville, Texas – served as a long-haired, goateed radio disc jockey for KCUB/98.3 FM, a classic-rock station in the heart of the Lone Star State.
"I'm a people person, and I wanted to be around people," he said of the gig, "but then I found myself in a studio, and it really wasn't much fun."
In 2003, two years removed from playing on the Tarleton State football team responsible for the school's first Lone Star Conference title, Bowers worked for Dell computers and moonlighted as a bouncer at a Texas bar.
"I was working at Dell and everything was fun, but I was in a cubical and talking to people over the phone," he said. "There was no personal interaction at all, and I literally couldn't take it."
After five years in the southwest, the Anaheim native returned to Orange County in 2004 and caught on as the offensive line coach at El Dorado High under then-head coach Jeff Bailey.
As part of Bailey's staff, Bowers – a mixed martial arts and jiu-jitsu aficionado – had a hand in four consecutive Century League championships and successive CIF-Southern Section Southwest Division titles, in 2006 and 2007.
"I learned my football, predominantly, from Jeff," he said. "One of the things he always said was, 'I do not care how well of a person you are and how good of a football player you are, what I care about is how you are after you graduate.'"
When Bailey left El Dorado in February 2009 to become the first head football coach at Yorba Linda High, Bowers was hired by John Barnes (the renowned head coach at Los Alamitos High) to run the offensive line and strength-and-conditioning program.
"The offensive line is my specialty," said Bowers, a special-education teacher and the freshman wrestling coach at Los Al. "I've noticed that wherever I've gone, I've always had one of the top offensive lines in the county. ... If you have a good offensive line, you're going to win."
On Jan. 15, nearly two months after Greg Kemp resigned from Esperanza, a simple announcement on the school's football website revealed Bowers as its new head coach.
"Coaching is the greatest thing, honestly," he said. "Every morning I wake up excited. This is the greatest gig in the world; you get to help kids and, for me at least, it helps me stay young. ... The day you walk in and you can't laugh at these kids and the things they say and do ... I can't imagine that ever happening."
In seven short months, Bowers will patrol the Aztec sideline for the first time since his days as an all-league center; mind on football, heart with something greater.
"Esperanza is something like seven miles from my house," he said. "When the baby comes, it'll be right there in August when football season starts, so I'm going to need as much support as possible, because I already know I'm not going to be sleeping a lot."
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