Home Team

Bob Putnam, Rodney Page, Laura Keeley, Matt Baker, John C. Cotey, Joey Knight

Meet Tampa's most diminutive, and dedicated, football player

16

August

Go ahead, take Alvin Bailey. Have Vernon Hargreaves III. We'll even give you Eric Moate and, for that matter, any other speedster in Hillsborough County.

For our money, the area's most impressive set of wheels belongs to weensy Leto wideout Marcel Bowen.

He pedals them to practice -- 40 minutes, one way -- from his Northdale home darned near every day.

"Man, I love that kid," Falcons senior tailback Andre Simpson said.

bowen.jpgA 5-foot-3, 110-pound senior, Bowen epitomizes both the pluck and plight of Leto's players. Like roughly 70 percent of his teammates, Bowen has no car of his own and parents who don't get home from work in time to drive him to practice.

Further adding to the dilemma is the fact his family recently moved to north Tampa. So Bowen puts a leg over the Roadmaster bike he purchased from Wal-Mart about 18 months ago and does a Lance Armstrong all the way to Leto.

"Today I got caught in the rain three times," said Bowen, who resides in Gaither's district but wanted to stay at Leto. "When I don't have my poncho on me, normally I'll ride fast so I can get to practice faster and get in shape."

Falcons coach Matt Kitchie, who refers to his smallest player as "Marcel-icious," said Bowen has missed only a few practices, but only because he has had to babysit younger siblings. 

Reprieves from manually powered transportation come only on occasion. Bowen, who says he gets a $20 weekly allowance "when I'm very respectful and good," sometimes will use a portion of that to take a city bus to practice.

Otherwise, it's 40 minutes of conditioning before practice even commences.

"We try to help him out, but he says he's good for the exercise," Simpson said. "He's good at riding that bike, too."

[Last modified: Saturday, September 15, 2012 12:22am]

    

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