Sweet and Lowe
Oct. 20, 2001
by Bri Niemi
The list of prerequisites in the application process of becoming a cornerback is long.
For starters, one must be able to cover his opposition like white on rice, with the ability to change direction and speed. Experience is also necessary in the body-contortion department, as candidates should possess enough talent to turn around and watch for flying objects while going at full-speed. Oh, and it is helpful if you have soft hands like a receiver, but play with the tenacity to lay a hit like a linebacker.
In short, the average football player need not apply.
There is a general consensus in the world of football that some of the most gifted athletes play in the defensive secondary, and more specifically, at corner. For Washington's Omare Lowe, the situation is no different. While he also excelled in track at Maple Valley's Tahoma High School, he found his niche out on the gridiron, only at this point in his career, it was on the other side of the ball.
'I played quarterback all throughout high school but never really played on defense until I got here,' says the 6-foot-1 senior. 'The biggest difference is that the two positions require totally different mentalities. At corner you have to be more aggressive when you hit people, whereas the quarterback is the one who gets all the glory. It was rough and I struggled a lot at first.'
Lowe chose Washington among other Pac-10 schools, including Arizona, Oregon State and Washington State, for the chance to stay close to home. While the Huskies gave him the option of playing either receiver or corner, he chose the latter but found the switch from offense to defense to be much more difficult than it looked. Lowe redshirted the 1997 season to allow himself more time to learn the new position.
'Some freshmen can come in and contribute right away like some of our guys are doing this year,' says Lowe. 'Others need to redshirt, which is what I needed to do. I gained a lot more experience that way.'
The time came when Omare would need to put that year of practice to the test. With junior Jermaine Smith out with knee injury, Lowe earned his first start in a Husky uniform. Facing the Trojans in their own backyard, the Huskies were handed their third loss of the season and their second in the conference. Lowe finished the game with two tackles and two pass break-ups, but refers to that game as the low point of his career.
'The first game that I started was on the road against USC,' remembers Lowe. 'That was a hard game for me and at times after that I wondered if college football was really for me. But growing up, I was always taught to never give up and to finish what I have started.'
The 1999 season began as different as it had ended for the Huskies just a year prior. With a brand new coaching staff, positions and leadership roles were up for grabs. Despite how Lowe felt about his own performances in the nine games he had played in his first year, the coaches saw something else. They saw raw talent that needed more experience and more playing time.
'When we got the new coaching staff, from the get-go, coach Hundley said that I was going to be the man,' says Lowe. 'I looked at him like, 'did you see the film from last year?' He always gave me confidence and that has gotten me this far. I've struggled at times but I feel like I have gotten better each year.'
Once the rookie in a line of more experienced defensive backs, Lowe now finds himself as a leader and teacher to the players who are in the same place he was just three short years ago.
'I enjoy playing the leadership role to some of the younger guys,' Lowe says. 'I wouldn't say I am the most vocal person, I just like to lead by example and I will do as much as I can to help them. They have a lot of talent and are going to be some good corners in the years to come.'
The adjustments that Omare has had to make on the field do not even begin to compare to the life he has had to deal with off the field. Following the death of his mother when he was just seven years old, Lowe moved around, staying with extended family and temporary foster care. His life was spiraling out of control until he was adopted by Bob and Lisa Cordiere.
'Dealing with my mother's death was the hardest thing I have ever had to face,' says Lowe. 'I was a lost kid and I got into a lot of trouble.Fortunately, I was adopted by two great people and they helped me grow into a better person. My parents are great people and I owe them a lot of credit. I am very thankful for the situation I was put into.'
So are the Huskies. Lowe has overcome a troubled childhood to become a college graduate with a degree in communications and an established player on a team whose main goal is travel back to Pasadena to prove they are, in fact, the nation's best.
'Being from Washington, I grew up with the Husky teams of the early '90s. I was in seventh and eighth grade and every time I would watch the Rose Bowl, I was just in awe of Napoleon Kaufman, Beno Bryant, Dana Hall, all those guys,' Lowe says. 'Once we found out that was the bowl we were going to, during that whole month of preparation all I could think about was being a little kid and looking up to these guys that I thought were the greatest people in the world.
'Once you go to the Rose Bowl, all you want to do is go again,' he continues. 'We are just trying to take it one game at a time, practice hard and not overlook anybody. As far as personal goals, everybody would like to be an All-American, but the team's success is what makes me successful. The individual stuff is nice, but the team is what matters to me.'
As far as what Lowe will do when his college days are over, he is not sure, but staying involved in the game is at the top of his list. If there is an opportunity to keep playing the game he loves, it would be a no-brainer.
'Hopefully my playing days will extend, but right now all I am worried about is college football and winning each week.'
The ability to cover? Check. Speed? Check. The power to hit? Check. Sorry fellows, the position's been filled.