NaVorro Bowman of the San Francisco 49ers pauses to reflect on how far he's come since being selected with the 91st overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
"I get chills just thinking about it," he says.
Bowman is shirtless and exhausted, having just completed an hour-long, full-body functional workout at the World's Gym in Largo, Md., roughly five miles from the District Heights neighborhood where he grew up.
In just three seasons, Bowman has evolved from a third-down and special teams player to starting middle linebacker to one half of the most dynamic inside linebacker duo in the league. Some would even say that he's emerged as one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
He says, "I really didn't think this would ever happen—this conversation of being the best—especially this early in my career. I think the reason it's coming so early is because of the work I put in. It's real."
On the field, lining up alongside future Hall of Famer Patrick Willis has helped Bowman elevate his game to All-Pro status. During his off-season workouts, however, Bowman prefers the company of players on the opposite end of the spectrum from his perennial All-Pro middle linebacker mate.
Rather than spending his off-seasons training at high-performance facilities in the sunshine states of California, Arizona or Florida, Bowman gets his work done back home in Maryland, grinding with a small group of NFL hopefuls in an ordinary gym situated in the corner of a strip mall.
He says, "I like waking up and earning what I get out of each workout. None of these guys in our group are in the NFL, none of them have a million dollars in their bank account. But they come in every single day and work, and that's what pushes me."
For Bowman, every extra bit of motivation helps on a dreary Monday morning two weeks into his off-season strength and conditioning program. The intensity was ramped up right from the get-go.
The entire workout—save for a heavy rope conditioning series toward the end—is performed in superset fashion. Bowman is hardly afforded a break between sets, and the exercises increase in difficulty up to the seventh and final superset.
With the work ethic that Bowman displays, it's easy to see how he has transcended from situational player to superstar for the Niners in just three seasons. And Bowman assures us that the best is yet to come.
He says, "When you do something great, people want to see you do something even greater. And I can't fall off. I have to continue getting better and see how far I can go."
Watch STACK.com for video of Bowman's workout.
Photo: Israel David Groveman
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock