Texas Tech's Smallest Playmaker
October 29, 1998
By Blayne Beal
When you look at the Texas Tech defense, it is sometimes easy to overlook Raiderback Reagan Bownds. "People don't even believe that I play for Texas Tech," Bownds said. "I don't even try and explain that I play linebacker - that would probably be too much for them."
Bownds, a 5-10, 190-pound former walk-on from Eldorado, has been making strides in the Red Raider "SWARM" defense in his junior season this fall. Perhaps the highlight of the season came in the thrilling come-from-behind victory over Fresno State Sept. 19 in Jones Stadium. With Texas Tech down 28-27, Fresno State quarterback Billy Volek handed off to Jaime Kimbrough on the Texas Tech 1-yard line. Bownds jarred the ball loose into the hands of teammate Kyle Shipley who took it into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
The play was no surprise to outside linebacker coach Larry Hoefer and the other members of the Texas Tech staff, who have watched Bownds progress from a walk-on scout-team player to a vital starter on the Red Raiders' vaunted defensive unit. With the injuries to fellow Raiderback Keith Cockrum and Sam linebacker Ty Ardoin this season, Bownds has worn many hats for the Tech defensive unit. In fact, he played every defensive snap, which didn't include his work on special teams, at Iowa State.
In addition to the game-winning play against Fresno State, Bownds also made a critical interception in the win at Iowa State. He tallied his first career interception in the season-opening victory against Texas-El Paso.
"Reagan is a very versatile player on our defense," defensive coordinator John Goodner said. "I have confidence in playing him in a number of positions. He has more ability than most people think. He works hard every day."
Bownds' versatility doesn't end on the football field. One of the top scholar-athletes in the Big 12 Conference, the dean's list student was named to the first-team All-Big 12 Academic squad last year. He was also tabbed for the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-District team. On the field in 1995, during his first year at Texas Tech, Reagan gained a starting position on the kickoff team and tied for second on the unit with 10 tackles. He saw action in 10 games and finished with 59 tackles on the year.
"I remember back in 1995 he was a guy who just kept on working hard and giving 110 percent in practice and on the scout team," secondary coach Dean Campbell said. "We just said why not give him a chance on the kickoff team.' So, we go to play Penn State and there is old Reagan Bownds on the starting kickoff team."
Meanwhile, Bownds' recent success has come after numerous setbacks. After a successful freshman campaign, Bownds seemed ready to become an important player in the Red Raider linebacker corps. Unfortunately, staying healthy was not in the game plan as Bownds would sit out the next season with a mysterious staph infection.
After climbing his way back into the line-up last season, Bownds ran into yet another roadblock. This time it was a knee injury. The knee injury would not sideline him, but severely hampered his performance on the field. During the offseason, he underwent surgery and had to sit out during spring drills.
"It was tough just watching the guys working hard and trying to improve themselves and seeing the excitement they had about this year," Bownds said. "It took a lot of hard work and rehab, but I think I am back to 100 percent."
Besides being a starter on the Red Raider football team, Bownds claims a title that none of his teammates can or perhaps even remotely come close to - World Champion Goat Roper. Goat roper? How does a goat roper make it as a starter on the Texas Tech defense?
"Football has always been very important to me," Bownds said. "Goat roping is just something I do for fun. I would like to be a professional rodeo cowboy one day, but of course I would have to switch to calves. Actually, there is good money in goat roping."
Eventually, a return to roping will happen, but the 1995 World Goat Roping Champion, who tied seven heads in 92 seconds, has spent limited time roping goats since coming to Tech. Too busy with school, he didn't even defend his title.
Reagan Bownds may be one of the shortest players on the team, but he makes up for the size difference with his quickness and athleticism. His return has provided an extra spark to the nation's 12th-ranked defense. Hopefully, by the end of the season, he will have a football championship trophy to sit beside his championship buckle.
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