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From Wildkat to Hoosier: Herman Fowler held single-season rushing record for at least 10 years

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HOOSIERS — Herman Fowler (right) poses with former IU recruiting coach Mark Deal (left) on campus in front of Assembly Hall. Deal recruited Fowler to play for the Hoosiers in the late 1990s.

A three-sport athlete for Kokomo from the fall of 1994 to the spring of 1998, Herman Fowler followed in the footsteps of his older siblings, dominating for the Wildkats and later playing for the Indiana Hoosiers.

Feeling like it was a family tradition for the Fowler family, with Fowler’s older brothers playing tailback for Kokomo before him, he was excited for the opportunities ahead of him as a freshman. As a sophomore he saw varsity time, playing on defense as an outside linebacker.

“I had a great experience. I had a great coach in Coach (Willard) Rice, … a lot of great people, not only athletes but people in general too. I had a great time,” Fowler said.

From his sophomore through his senior season, Fowler was a running back for the Wildkats. He held the single-season rushing record for at least 10 years, having 274 yards in one game where he carried the ball 35 times that evening. Although the record has since been broken, it is still the fourth-best in school history. Additionally, he ran 1,663 yards his senior year, the sixth best in Kokomo school history. Fowler also is tied with six other former Wildkats for the record of interceptions returned for touchdowns in a season.

Fowler finished his football career with 1,999 yards rushing (10th best all-time), 286 rushing attempts (14th best), and 25 rushing touchdowns (eighth best). He was a 1998 Indiana All-Star.

Along with football, Fowler also played on the basketball and baseball teams at Kokomo. During basketball season Fowler’s junior year (1997), the Wildkats competed in the “final four” at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis against Bloomington North, the last year before the division of class basketball took over.

It was then when Fowler’s dream of playing a collegiate sport took flight. The recruiting coach from Indiana University at the time, Mark Deal, saw Fowler play during the championship game. Deal noticed his phenomenal athletic ability, and after watching film of Fowler playing football, IU began recruiting him for their football team.

“It was always a dream for me to either play college football or basketball. Actually, a lot of people don’t know, but baseball was my favorite sport. … It was actually just a dream for me to go to college and play something. It was a blessing for me to get a scholarship at IU for me to be able to continue not only my athletic career but my academic career,” Fowler said.

On a full-ride scholarship at IU, Fowler was a middle linebacker for the Hoosiers from the fall of 1998 to the fall of 2001, where he lettered his sophomore season through his senior season. In 1999, Fowler started two games for the Hoosiers.

Under the leadership of Head Coach Malcolm “Cam” Cameron, the Hoosiers’ team went 4-7, 4-7, 3-8, and 5-6 overall, as well as 2-6, 3-5, 2-6, and 4-4 in the Big Ten during Fowler’s four years there.

The IU football team was “up and coming” in those years, Fowler said. His senior year, the team was one game short of qualifying for a bowl game.

In the initial transition to college, Fowler struggled at first to adapt to the collegiate atmosphere of sports. He noticed as a freshman how quickly he would have work to become bigger, stronger, and faster to be able to compete at the college level.

“In high school, you’re the best player on the team, and then go to college and you find other players exactly like you. … I just had to work hard and get my strength and conditioning and my speed up. It eventually worked out all right for me. It was tough coming from high school to college because it’s a different physicality, different speed of the game, and it’s just an eye-opener,” Fowler said.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in sports management in 2002, Fowler almost immediately began coaching football and helping kids learn the game. He coached Kokomo PAL teams and later was able to go back to his alma mater and work his way from the Wildkat freshmen to junior varsity to eventually the varsity team where he coached on the defensive line.

Wanting to continually share his knowledge and experience with the players, Fowler and the rest of the coaching staff would take the team to Memorial Stadium in Bloomington to tailgate and watch the Hoosiers play.

Today, Fowler and his family attend IU football games together where he often meets up with former players. Earlier this football season, Fowler ran into Deal, the former recruiting coach and current assistant athletic director for alumni relations who made Fowler’s dream possible.

Fowler now works as a UPS driver and resides in Kokomo with his wife and daughter.