SIDNEY — One of Isaiah Bowser’s first days as a student on Sidney High School’s campus was among the worst he spent there. On Wednesday, he made one of his last days at the school one of his best.
Bowser and fellow senior Devan Rogers both signed national letters of intent on Thursday in Sidney’s library. Bowser signed with Northwestern as a running back, while Rogers was recruited as a defensive tackle by Toledo.
Bowser and Rogers both verbally committed to Northwestern and Toledo, respectively, last summer.
“It’s been wild,” Rogers said of signing with the Rockets. “My Dad (Carlose) motivated me every single day in high school that hard work will pay off. Today, it showed that. I’m just willing to do whatever it takes to get to this next level after college.”
The two players were instrumental in the turnaround of Sidney’s football program over the last four years. The Yellow Jackets were 2-8 in 2014 and lost every conference game by at least 17 points. This year, Sidney finished 10-2 overall and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in nearly 30 years.
“This was a great class,” Bowser said of Sidney’s seniors. “We came in freshman year and didn’t do too good prior to that, but we came in and finished our senior year doing something that hasn’t been done in a long time. Something to be proud of not just by us, but the whole city.”
Signing with a Division I university was far from Bowser’s mind during his first day in Sidney’s program. Bowser tore an ACL in the first practice of his freshman season and missed the rest of the year.
Suffering such a major injury early in a high school career isn’t normally a good sign for collegiate prospects. But Bowser barely missed a snap over the next three seasons and played both ways much of the time as a running back and linebacker.
Bowser said the injury made him work harder the last three years.
“I started lifting a lot right away,” Bowser said. “I couldn’t run or go to practice or anything, so I stared to lift back then, freshman year. I think it played into my success. …I recovered hard, came back strong, and it worked out fine.”
Bowser was projected by scouting services early in his high school career as a linebacker prospect for college. But he was convinced after his running success as a sophomore that he could play running back in college.
One of the reasons he chose Northwestern is because the Wildcats recruited him as a linebacker. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald tweeted on Wednesday that Bowser “is going to be a big part of our backfield.”
— Pat Fitzgerald (@coachfitz51) December 20, 2017
“Between academics, football, and coach Fitz, it’s a great fit for me,” Bowser said. “Coach Fitz is a great guy, and I love Chicago.”
Rogers (6-foot-2, 285 pounds) finished with 291 career tackles, 11.5 sacks, five fumble recoveries and one interception. He was a four-year starter in high school and is poised to be a 12-time letterwinner at Sidney. He also plays basketball and participates in track.
Rogers credited Sidney’s coaching staff for helping him earn a scholarship.
“They told us every day that nothing is given to you and that you have to work hard, not always in the weight room but in the film room, at practice, during drills, listening to them,” Rogers said. “It’s hard work all around.”
Rogers said he talked with Toledo defensive coordinator Brian George on Wednesday morning and said the team is excited for him to get to campus next summer.
Bowser (6-1, 205) rushed for 5,471 yards and 68 touchdowns in three seasons for the Yellow Jackets. He finished with 6,814 all-purpose yards and 77 total touchdowns, which are both school records. He also set over a dozen single-season records, including carries, points, rushing yards and total offense.
Bowser said his last day at Sidney is Friday, and he’ll head to Northwestern in early January. He’ll begin taking classes on Jan. 8.
“Coach Fitz told me I’d better start conditioning, because it’s going to be something way different than I’ve ever experienced,” Bowser said. “So I’m going to go in there and see what it’s all about. I’ll be ready.”
Both Bowser and Rogers were named first team all-state in Division II by the Associated Press this year and first team all-Greater Western Ohio Conference. Bowser was first team all-GWOC last season and Rogers was first team all-GWOC North.
Rogers said he thinks Sidney will be able to keep up its recent success next year.
“I think we set a standard for next year and years to come,” Rogers said.
It’s the first year the NCAA has allowed an early signing period for football. The early signing period lasts until Friday, then the regular signing period for football runs from Feb. 7 to April 1.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.