STILLWATER â€“ Not once, not twice, but three times during the same postgame interview Saturday, Bo Bowling gulped back tears.
The tears of a joyful recovery.
Bowling is back â€“ back from his self-inflicted exile due to a 2009 arrest on drug charges; back as a productive person; back as a productive player after his days as a Cowboy appeared dead.
All that seemed to rush up on Bowling Saturday, there in the west end zone auditorium inside Boone Pickens Stadium, as he happily answered questions about Oklahoma State's big win over Baylor. A big win he had a big part in, which is becoming more and more common in this magical Cowboys season.
â€œComing back and getting back to where I'm at, it's huge,â€ said Bowling, a wide receiver who ranks third on the team in catches and yards. â€œBig for me and big for my life.
â€œI'm proud to be here and I'm proud to be a part of this team.â€
None of it seemed possible as recently as last spring.
After an arrest in February of 2009, Bowling faced felony and misdemeanor drug charges, including a damaging count of â€œintent to distribute a controlled substance.â€ Bowling eventually accepted a plea deal that reduced all charges to misdemeanors and removed the intent-to-distribute count.
Still, there were repercussions that soiled his reputation and his future.
Bowling spent 15 days in the Payne County Jail. He completed 30 hours of community service and six weeks of substance abuse counseling and is continuing to pay monetary restitution.
On top of that, Cowboys coach Mike Gundy suspended him from the team, seemingly for good.
Except Bowling preferred to rewrite the ending.
â€œThere were people I shouldn't have been around, things I shouldn't have been doin',â€ he said. â€œI learned from those mistakes.â€
Bowling stayed in school, made his grades and cleaned up his act, watching the Cowboys 2009 season from afar.
â€œThat was the hardest thing, not knowing if I'd ever get to play,â€ Bowling said. â€œHaving to watch these games, watching the football season and not knowing if I'd get to play again, it hurt.
â€œBut I kept believing, kept fighting and got through it.â€
Then, with his life in order, he went to Gundy last May, seeking an unlikely second chance.
â€œWhen he showed up last spring, I didn't know what he wanted,â€ Gundy said. â€œLike a letter of reference or something, to stay out of jailâ€¦ I didn't know what he wanted.
â€œHe said, â€˜I want to play football again.' I, in my mind, was kind of giggling.â€
But Gundy soon discovered Bowling was serious, with a commitment to school and a trouble-free rebound to prove it.
â€œWhat he did was pretty difficult,â€ Gundy said. â€œHe had all his legal issues going on and that cost him a lot of money. He still got enrolled in school and found a way to pay for it, went to class and made his grades, while still satisfying all these deals he had to take care of over here with the county.
â€œHe took care of everything. And that says a lot about him.â€
After missing all of spring under suspension, OSU wide receiver Bo Bowling has been playing catch-up in the new offense of Dana Holgorsen.
Complicating matters, Bowling opened the season learning all four wideout positions.
Now settling in, the senior from Tonkawa is making a major impact.
Bowling has posted career highs for receptions and yards each of the past two weeks. And of his 17 catches in wins over Kansas State and Baylor, 11 produced first downs.
â€œBo's made a lot of key catches, third down catches on balls that were thrown good, but not great,â€ said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. â€œHe's been really good for us.â€
Bowling's season so far:
Opponent: Rec, Yds
First 7 games: 12 catches , 98 yards
Kansas State: 8 catches, 92 yards
Baylor: 9 catches, 101 yards
Total: 29 catches, 291 yards