There's no arguing the success of The University of Southern Mississippi's
Jeff Bower, now in his 12th season as head coach at his alma mater.
In the more
than a decade that he's guided the Golden Eagles' football fortunes,
Bower has won 80 games and strung together nine straight winning
seasons and several bowl appearances, along with three Conference
But it's not
just winning football games and conference championships that matter
to Bower. Winning a positive future for his players as model citizens
by being not only a coach, but also being a mentor and positive
role model, is Bower's ultimate goal at Southern Miss.
One might think
the kind of success Bower has had could come only through a "my
way or the highway" approach to coaching, but his players will
tell you differently. To them, the former Golden Eagles quarterback
is a coach who cares about them as people and values their input
in making the program successful.
a player's coach," said Rod Davis of Gulfport, a senior linebacker
for the Golden Eagles. "He's not one of these dictator types.
He listens to our suggestions and he leads us by his passion for
In Bower, Davis
sees someone who doesn't just think about Davis as an All-American
linebacker, but as Rod Davis, the person. "He cares for us
on and off the field," he said.
back Etric Pruitt says Bower's coaching abilities give Pruitt the
confidence and positive attitude he needs to be his best on the
field. "He's one of the most inspiring leaders I've been around,"
Pruitt said. "He does things the right way."
has translated not only into winning seasons and bowl games, but
an improved devotion to the preparation side of the game by Southern
Miss players to make all that success possible. Bower says he's
been pleased with the commitment of those who participated in the
team's voluntary summer conditioning program this year. "They've
been very dedicated," he said.
Just as dedicated,
too, is Bower to his role as a counselor or parent figure to his
players, and always as a positive role model. "It's important
for coaches to know their players, know their personal side, and
have a genuine concern for them as a person and a student,"
he said. "That's important."
Placing a high
priority on adherence to team rules is important to Bower, not only
for the sake of maintaining order and team discipline but also as
a way to help his players develop as people.
make mistakes, and that's part of the growing up process,"
he said. "But we have to teach our players to be accountable
and responsible. I just don't think we see enough of that anymore
in our society."
Miss football player Joe Bryant, who is active in the Eagle Club
and M-Club organizations, praised the job Bower has done, not only
in terms of growth and success of the program, but also in his focus
on teaching the values of good citizenship to his players. Both
were teammates at Southern Miss in the early 1970s.
him the first day he got here," said Bryant, who played offensive
guard for the Golden Eagles. "He's always been driven and very
dedicated - that's just his personality, and he realizes that the
success of the football team is the success of these young men's