The final year of football in a Rutgers uniform began yesterday for fifth-year senior Antwan Lowery. But it wasn't a quick or easy journey that led him to becoming one of the team's most reliable offensive linemen.
Lowery came to Rutgers in the class of 2009 as a highly-acclaimed defensive tackle. After coming in a bit heavy and spending his first season on defense, Lowery made the jump to offensive guard.
"I still miss defensive tackle," Lowery said. "I don't reminisce on it. I moved to offense and it was the smartest thing for this football team. At times, I think I could have been a Warren Sapp-type lineman. But I got thrown a curve ball and I just had to hit it."
That first curve ball came in the form of dropping quite a bit of weight as former head coach Greg Schiano wanted Lowery to play closer to the 300-pound mark. Lowery battled with maintaining that and it led to a disappointing end to his third season at Rutgers.
After starting three games in the first part of his redshirt sophomore year, Lowery did not even make a single game appearance through the second half of the season. At the end of the season, Lowery even contemplated giving up the game of football altogether.
But he kept at it and a head coaching change last year seemed to serve him for the better. Kyle Flood took over for Schiano and allowed Lowery to play at a heavier weight.
The result was 13 successful starts at right guard in which Lowery hovered around the 324-pound mark.
"I've grown a lot. Just being here and going through what I went through allowed me to grow from a boy to a man," Lowery said. "Now I can get with some of these young guys and show them what I went through and let them hear my story. Hopefully, it impacts them in a good way."
This past offseason, conditioning was not a problem according to Lowery.
"It was easy to maintain, but me personally, I want to get down to like 319 or 318 for the first game," Lowery said. "As long as I stay in the 320-325 range until then I should be fine. I worked hard this offseason and I'm just going to continue to keep working hard; get stronger, faster and quicker. I just want to be a dominant player all around."
Lowery's 2012 season was such a success, it forced him to consider leaving early for the NFL Draft.
"I sat down with my family and we talked about it," Lowery explained. "But I knew in my heart I wanted to come back to school and finish what I started. We talked about the idea of leaving but I knew in my heart what I wanted to do."
Once again, Lowery's role will change this season as one of the most veteran players on the entire offense.
Looking ahead to opening day, Lowery looks to be one of only a few seniors who will wind up starting on the offensive side of the football.
"It feels a lot different. I know that it's my time now. It's my last year going around at it. I feel like I have a responsibility to lead the young guys and be an example for this program. In my time here, I have seen a lot of seniors come through this program and I've studied what they did. Now, it's my turn. I have a sense of how I want to help this team. It's very important that I take on this leadership role."