After becoming only the third junior to win the Hansen Award as Suffolk County's most outstanding football player, Jordan Gowins of St. Anthony's is well aware that there is a target on his back this season. But it's a moving target that, like the player himself, will be very hard to hit.
"He's a step faster. He's running guys over," Friars coach Rich Reichert said of Gowins, a 6-foot, 205-pound senior who already has committed to run-oriented Boston College. "His confidence is through the roof. He's actually looking for contact now. That's the Boston College way. They want physical guys. At this stage, he's way ahead of everybody else."
That was certainly the case in Friday night's season opener when Gowins rushed for 250 yards on just 13 carries, with five touchdowns in the Friars' 49-16 victory over Buffalo St. Joseph's. Gowins scored on a 53-yard jaunt on his first touch, and added a smooth 94-yard TD run in the second quarter, proving to be an elusive target as he streaked down the sideline.
That's where Gowins usually is -- ahead of the field. In helping to lead St. Anthony's to an 11-1 record and the CHSFL title last season, Gowins carried 190 times for 2,012 yards and 24 touchdowns. That's why he will be the target of opposing defenses this season, and he welcomes the challenge of being the focal point of the Friars' spread offense, which lost most of its other starters at the skill positions.
"Everything that I accomplished last year is totally behind me now. If anything, I feel more obligated to do better because of what I already accomplished," said Gowins, whose brother Edwin won the 2006 Hansen Award while playing for Bellport. "You don't want to go backward. You want to achieve more."
Reichert will be happy to oblige. "He wants the workload and we told him he's getting it," he said. "When you get a player like that, you use him. He'll get a minimum of 25 touches a game. We're really working on getting him the ball on the swing routes and screens. It's one-on-one. I don't care if it's a linebacker or a d-back, he'll run you over."
Gowins said his game resembles that of Giants rookie running back Andre Williams, who led the nation in rushing (2,177 yards) and carries (355) last season for Boston College. It's that atypical commitment to running the ball in this era of pass-happy offenses that attracted Gowins to BC in the first place.
"It's a classic pro-style offense where they're going to run the ball 30 to 40 times a game. That's the type of offense I need to be in," he said. "I'm a running back. I'm more of the power-style back, but I do have the speed on top of that."
Gowins said he ran in "the low 4.4s" when clocked in the 40 over the summer. Even though he is 25 pounds lighter than Williams was in college, he noted, "After watching his film, we are very similar backs."
And the Friars' offense is similar to the Eagles', which is why Gowins believes he will be well-prepared for the next level.
"On my first visit to BC, after I got the scholarship offer, I sat down with the running backs coach and we went over their game films. We went over their most successful plays and we broke that down," Gowins said. "It's similar to the offense we run here, a zone offense. We run it out of the spread and not the pro set, but it's the same zone-blocking schemes. That's why I think I'll be a very good fit there. It's a very old-school, traditional campus, and that's what I like about it."
There's something else he likes about Boston College, something that pleased his old-school mother, Patrina Cousin. "My mom is very hard on me about academics. Growing up, academics was always first," said Gowins, who plans to major in business with a minor in sports therapy. "As far as academics, Boston College was the best fit for me. It's among the best schools in the nation. To go to a school like that, get an education and play ACC football, that's the full package."
So is Gowins. "I've gotten faster. I've gotten better at catching the ball out of the backfield, which you have to do at the next level," he said. "I'm a better blocker. I'm becoming a more complete back. I'm definitely better than I was last year."
The target on his back will only grow larger.