Zack Bowman is back in the NFL, meaning life is back to normal for the former Bartlett High star.
Bowman is back with the team he played with for the first four seasons of his career -- the Chicago Bears, who signed him to a one-year deal Tuesday, had him at practice Wednesday and could very well use him on special teams in Monday's game against Detroit.
"It feel good to be back," Bowman told reporters in Chicago on Wednesday. "I came in here and had a big smile on my face just because I had an opportunity to see a lot of my old teammates and coaches and staff."
And because he's once again doing what he loves again. Bowman, 27, spent the first six weeks of the season without a team.
"This is something that I've been doing since I was in the fourth grade, and then not to be able to do it for a few weeks or a month, it sucks," Bowman said.
Bowman, a cornerback for the Bears from 2008-11, signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings during the offseason and made the team's 53-man roster, only to be waived the next day. He had a tryout with the New England Patriots last week and said he wasn't expecting to hear from the Bears.
"I had just actually got done running (Tuesday morning) when my agent called me," he said. "I was shocked but yet excited."
Bowman was a two-sport star at Bartlett, helping the Golden Bears win the 2002 large-school state football championship and the 2002 and 2003 Class 4A basketball championships as part of a lineup that included Mario Chalmers of the Miami Heat.
In his senior season of football at Bartlett, Bowman was voted the Alaska Player of the Year and was a first-team all-state pick at three positions -- defensive back, kick returner and utility player.
A 2008 fifth-round draft pick out of Nebraska, Bowman said he worked out on his own and with former NFL players during his time out of the game.
"I had an opportunity to go down to Texas," he said. "I was down there for a month. I was down there training with some vets, some retired guys. I had an opportunity to basically just learn from them."
A roster spot became available in Chicago when the Bears cut offensive tackle Chris Williams. In Bowman, the Bears get a player who knows their systems and who has contributed before. From 2008-11, he recorded 117 tackles, seven interceptions, two fumble recoveries and made 16 starts. His best season came in 2009, when he started 12 games and registered 75 tackles and a team-high six interceptions.
"When you get a chance to bring a player back that helped you do some things, you have to be excited about that," Chicago coach Lovie Smith said on chicagobears.com. "Whenever we feel like we can help our ballclub, getting another skill guy in like that, we have to jump on top of that."
Bowman could play immediately on special teams in place of injured Sherrick McManis.
His signing gives Alaska three players in the NFL. The others are Chris Kuper of Dimond, an offensive lineman for the Denver Broncos, and Daryn Colledge of North Pole, an offensive lineman for the Arizona Cardinals.
For the first month of the season, Colledge was the only Alaskan actually playing in the NFL -- Kuper missed the first four games with a broken arm.
Kuper, one of Denver's team captains, played special teams in Week 5 against New England and returned to the starting lineup in time for Monday's comeback win over San Diego. Coach John Fox said it's good to have him back playing in front of quarterback Peyton Manning.
"Kup has been around," Fox said on denverbroncos.com. "He's kind of the leader of that room. He does have a lot of leadership abilities and he's a good communicator. Up front, there are a lot of things going on. There is a lot made of Peyton as it should be, but (the offensive line) has to get all that information in a noisy, high-pressure environment. So it helps when there is a good comfort level there. Kup helps that."
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By BETH BRAGG