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Bowen did not have much of a father figure growing up, but he made sure that his four children did.
Matt Bowen Sr. is on the sidelines of every Fairfax game to support his son Myles (5), just like he did with his son Matt Jr. Photo by Jason Lewis
Matt Bowen Jr. led the City Section in rushing during his junior and senior seasons, as he topped the 2,000 yard mark both years. He helped lead Fairfax to the City Section Division II championship his senior year. Photo by Jason Lewis
Myles Bowen is one of the best quarterbacks in the City Section, and he is also excelling as a defensive back at Fairfax. Photo by Jason Lewis
Matt Bowen Sr. has a great family in large part because he wanted to make sure that his children had the type of father that he did not have. (L to R) Mason, Lisa, Milan, Matt Sr., and Myles. Matt Jr., not pictured, is off to college. Photo by Jason Lewis
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
Matt Bowen Sr. has one memory from his childhood that sticks with him.
"I was one of the best football players in my district, as far as playing outside of uniforms," Bowen said. "But all of the guys that I played with, they played Pop Warner. You know, organized sports, where you had to pay to play. Like Baldwin Hills, Pico Union, the Demos, and the Wishire Huskies were the most popular places to play ball at the time. But my mom and stepfather, they were so caught up on bills, and with my stepfather being on drugs, they couldn't really pay for me to play ball. He used to lie and tell me that he was going pay for me to play. Six o'clock comes and I'm sitting on the porch while everybody else is going to practice. It was an eye opener. I remember telling myself that if I ever had boys, I'm going to put my sons in athletics, and do everything that I can to keep them in there."
Bowen held true to his words, as he has three boys who have excelled at football, and he has a daughter that is doing very well in tennis and track.
Bowen grew up in a few areas of South Los Angeles. Because of tough financial issues, he moved around often with his mother and stepfather. He started out at Jefferson High School, where he first played organized football. He transferred to Crenshaw High School and then to Washington High School, but he did not play at either school. He ended up excelling as a running back at South West Community College, where he earned an Associates Degree. He also played semi-pro football with the Inglewood Blackhawks.
Home life for Bowen was very difficult, as his step father was a fugitive from Angola prison.
"His focus wasn't really on raising me, it was really him just doing what he wanted to do," Bowen said. "He was very selfish. My mom, she was the one that really raised me the most and she taught me how to be a man in life. I know that was kind of hard for her to do, but she did the best that she could do at the time."
While some black men repeat the cycle of their own upbringing by abandoning their children like their fathers did to them, Bowen went the opposite direction.
"I looked at it like I really had a chance to change the dynasty with my family and with my name," Bowen said. "Being able to set a solid influence for my sons, to play ball, and pick up where I left off. Not so much living through them, but letting them make a name for themselves.
"I wasn't going to raise my kids the way that I was raised," Bowen continued. "I was really undisciplined, and that stemmed from my household. My stepfather was on drugs, and his main concern was for himself."
Bowen's children have greatly benefitted from his decision to be the best father that he could be. His son Matt Jr. played at Fairfax High School, and he led the City in rushing his junior and senior seasons, as he rushed for over 2,000 yards both years. During his senior season he helped lead them to the Division II City Section Championship. He is now playing football at the College of the Canyons, and several Division I colleges are interested in signing him.
Bowen's second oldest son, Myles, is also at Fairfax, where he is heading into his second season as the starting quarterback. He is one of the best in the City Section, and he also excels as a defensive back.
Bowen's third son, Mason, is tearing it up in Pop Warner football with the Culver City Bruins. Matt Jr. was too big to play Pop Warner, and Myles played basketball all the way up until he entered high school. Mason is the only one of the three boys that has had the full experience of playing on the Pop Warner level, and there is one moment every year that Bowen cannot wait for.
"I really look forward to sign up days, and I get kind of emotional because I remember back to sign up days when I was a kid and I was sitting on the porch," Bowen said. "I'm just happy to have them out there."
Bowen takes great joy in training his boys, as he works out with them at the beach, the hills, and the stairs. He also has them do boxing training, like he did when he was younger, because he believes that it builds up their core. Training with his boys is sort of making up for his childhood.
"The training that I'm giving them is the training that I didn't get," Bowen said. "It teaches them discipline, it teaches them understanding. It gives them wisdom on life, because you have to be strong and you have to be conditioned to do anything in life. Football really teaches you how to be a man, because you have to be tough to be a man."
Bowen's daughter Milan also trains with her father and older brothers.
"I teach my girl to be tough," Bowen said. "I work her out, not as tough as I work my boys out, but I do work her out. It's a tough workout that she does, and she does sweat. She wants it just just as bad as my boys do. That's my baby girl, that's my princess. I don't want her to have big muscles, I just want her to have good form and be conditioned to swing the racket and run on the track."
Bowen takes pride in being a great father, and having his name carried on by great children.
"The one thing that is guaranteed in life is that you're going to live and you're going to die, and somebody is going to have to carry your name and characteristics that you rubbed off on them," Bowen said. "So if you can rub off something good on your kids and give them something that they can carry on, then your dynasty will definitely be changed or enriched."
Bowen's children appreciate his efforts, and what he has provided them.
"I'm blessed to have him in my life," Myles said. "A lot of kids don't really have their father in their life. He's strong, he's brave, and I know that he always has my back. I thank God to have him in my life. He's influenced my life."
Bowen has been on the sideline of every Fairfax game since Matt Jr. was there, as he is viewed as one of the coaches by the players, and his sons love having him there.
"It's very important (that he's there)," Myles said. "Honestly I think he's in the game with me. I play better when he's there. If he's not there I just feel like there is something big in my life that's missing. It's just beautiful to have him on the sideline every game, and for what ever challenges that I have he's there."
Bowen's wife Lisa appreciates that her children have such a strong and positive man in their lives.
"He's a very good, caring person," Lisa said. "Everybody thinks that he is Mr. hardcore, and never cries, but he can be a cry baby. He even got emotional when he heard about this interview (with the Sentinel). He's a very good father. I've been very blessed as a mom, and that God paired us together. We've been together for over 20 years now, and I couldn't have asked for a better dad. He wanted to change the dynasty with his upbringing, and he did."
Matt Bowen Sr. wanted a different path for his children than the one that he had, and because of it he is the leader of a strong black family.