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Renaissance Man

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Will Cowger is a modern day renaissance man, excelling in three sports and the classroom

By Jonathan Stark

Vandalia Community High School senior Will Cowger is a big guy. At 6 feet 3 inches and 230 pounds, he stands out from the crowd. His size isn’t the only thing that separates him from the rest, though. Cowger is a three-sport star at VCHS. In the fall he’s under the lights on the football field, in the winter he’s on the hardwood of the basketball court and in the spring he’s under the sun, in the shot put ring.

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Even with the demands of his athletic schedule, Cowger maintains a 4.0 in the classroom and is currently at the top of his class.

“I always make sure grades come first,” Cowger said. “Because that’s what’s going to last longer than the sports.”

Cowger’s high school football career came to an end less than a month ago. He had a good season, recording a team-high 77 tackles, 15 of which were for a loss, also a team-high. While he played defensive end in every game, he played fullback early in the season and played some offensive line at the end of the season, a testament to his athletic prowess.

In limited action at fullback, he had 25 yards, and a touchdown against EA-Wood River.

“[My senior year] was a little tough because we lost all those close games, but from a personal stand point I did pretty well,” Cowger said.

Cowger has played football since the sixth grade and expects to play football next season in college. Although he hasn’t picked a college yet, Augustana College is currently at the top of his short list.

Ausgustana is a small liberal arts college in Rock Island and is a Division-III school. Cowger is still visiting colleges to find the best fit, both athletically and academically. Even after playing for more than seven years, football still appeals to Cowger on an ancient level.

“I just like the intensity of the game; it’s kind of like being a gladiator,” he said.

Even with football still on his mind, Cowger is gearing up for this basketball season. He feels good going into his final season, and is positive about how the Vandals will come out next week when the season starts. As the team's resident post player, coach Kevin Jackson will look to Cowger to solidify Vandalia’s post presence.

“I think we should have a good team this year, because we have some starters back. Our conference is a little weaker, we’ve got the west now, so we’ll see,” Cowger said.

As one of five seniors on the basketball team, Cowger said he will focus on making sure that the team doesn’t have any letdowns during the season, and making sure he gets his points and rebounds to help the team win. Cowger leads by example for the underclassmen and makes sure he’s setting a good example, on and off the floor.

The switch from football to basketball has changed Cowger’s conditioning routine as well. While his football conditioning is focused on getting bigger and stronger, his basketball routine is more focused on cardiovascular and having to run up and down court seven or eight times between time outs.

Cowger’s running will spill over into the spring some also. It’s relatively uncommon to see a guy as big as Cowger running sprints, but he does it anyway to stay in shape for football, and can hang with some of the smaller guys on the track. But he makes his presence felt more the field events, as his body type is more geared toward them, particularly the shot put.

Last season, he missed making it to state in the shot put, buy just three inches. Not too bad for an athlete who had taken two years off from track and field.

Following last year’s basketball season he was looking for, “something to keep the competitive juices flowing.” He said he started off slow in the shot put but began to gather some steam as the season progressed.

Part of his progression stemmed from lifting weights for football. As he became stronger he was able to start throwing even farther.

After last season’s results in the shot put, Cowger is confident heading into this spring.

“I’m hoping to make a splash this year and make it into state,” he said. “Maybe even place if I keep improving the way I have been.”

With school five day’s a week and sports going on throughout the school year, Cowger holds down a job at Vandalia Airport, packing parachutes on the weekends. He is a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Honor Society, Students Against Violation of the Environment, Bi-Phy-Chem and is a member of St. James Lutheran Church.

Without school and organized athletics during the summer, Cowger fills his time with tennis and volleyball games with friends, anything to stay active and keep that competitive edge.

In the eyes of many, Cowger excels in numerous sports, is a standout student with a passion for science and biology, an active member in his community, a modern day renaissance man.

But if you had to ask him what he considers himself, he’d be, “a football player that plays basketball.”