TAMPA — When the call Da'Quan Bowers had longed for finally came, so many thoughts flooded his mind.
The defensive end's phone lit up Friday night, and Bucs coach Raheem Morris was on the other end. But even before answering, Bowers knew who was calling.
For several years his caller ID often showed a similar phone number from one of his closest friends: former Clemson teammate and 2007 Bucs first-round draft pick Gaines Adams, who died in January 2010 from a heart attack.
"It's ironic," said Bowers, the Bucs' second-round pick Friday. "When Gaines would call me, an 813 (area code) would show up. When I saw that number (Friday) night, I just knew it was Tampa Bay."
It was an emotional 24 hours for Bowers. He plummeted in the draft because of concerns about his injured right knee. He had surgery for a torn meniscus after last season and did not participate in the combine.
Also, Bowers was experiencing this turning point in his life without two people he loved. His father, Dennis, also died last year. Dennis Bowers was a member of a gospel band with which Da'Quan sometimes performed.
"When I got this call, (my father) was the first person I could think of, him and Gaines Adams," Bowers said.
Bowers has vivid memories of both men. His father's last piece of advice to him before his death from a seizure in August was to be more aggressive. Bowers did that at Clemson last season, notching 15½ sacks.
And Adams helped Bowers grow up, the defensive end said. Bowers knew Adams since he was "14 or 15." He even wore Adams' No. 93 jersey at Clemson as a tribute.
"(Adams) and my father were the only two faces I could see when I answered that phone," Bowers said. "Those two guys helped me to be the man that I am.
"And it's ironic that (Adams) played at Tampa and I'm getting drafted by Tampa, just like him."
The two met when Adams went to a camp Bowers attended.
"We exchanged numbers, and ever since then he would always call and check up on me," Bowers said. "He'd come pick me up and take me back to Clemson, or we'd just hang out.
"He did the things that a big brother would do."
So is it a coincidence Bowers was drafted by the bucs, or is something more at work? The deeply religious Bowers believes the latter.
"I think everything happens for a reason, and it's all in God's plan," he said. "He made this plan for me since Day 1, and I'm living it out.
"I'm just excited to see where things lead me."