Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Da'Quan Bowers is using his late-season entry into the starting lineup as a chance to prove his detractors wrong.
Bowers finished his collegiate career at Clemson last year as one of the most highly regarded defensive linemen in the country. But a January knee surgery raised concerns about Bowers' health, and he fell to the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
After recording seven tackles, including five for a loss, and 1.5 sacks last week against the Carolina Panthers in his second start of the season, Bowers is ready to tell the teams that passed on him that they missed out.
"I think people are starting to realize that they made a mistake (by not drafting me earlier)," Bowers told The Tampa Tribune. "But you know what? Everyone else's mistake is Tampa's gain."
The Buccaneers were reluctant to play Bowers from the outset given his knee concerns. But once Bowers adapted to the Buccaneers' scheme and showed the surgery had not slowed him, he emerged as one of the defense's young bright spots.
"His progress was slower, and you could almost see people question if he was the guy we drafted," Buccaneers defensive line coach Keith Millard told the St. Petersburg Times. "But I've always known in the back of my mind this guy was going to be a big-time ballplayer."