Luke Bowanko played center and offensive guard at Virginia from 2010-13 and later enjoyed a six-year career in the NFL with five different teams. The Clifton, Va., native was drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He currently has retired from football and is starting a career in real estate.
Q: It has been over six years since you were a student-athlete at Virginia, but on social media have been a vocal supporter for all Cavalier sports. Can you share what drives your passion and what UVA sports other than football are your favorites to follow?
Bowanko: Six years … oof. I have always been a massive sports fan and rooting for the student-athletes at UVA is super rewarding because you know how much time and energy they are putting into their everyday routine, all the while producing some pretty awesome results. Watching the basketball teams’ recent success has been really fun as well as the men’s lacrosse team. Anytime the Hoos are playing on tv, I am tuned in.
Q: You have had the opportunity to spend parts of the last six NFL seasons with five different franchises. What has been your most memorable game or moments as a professional?
Bowanko: The best moments playing in the NFL were definitely the ones shared with my former teammates and staff. Of course, NFL Sundays are the pinnacle as far as game day experiences go, but I didn’t necessarily win a ton of games on the teams I was on. So for me, the times I look back on the most are times spent hanging around the facility in that brotherhood.
Q: Looking back on your UVA career, you were part of the same offensive line that started all 13 games of the 2011 season without any changes at any of the five positions. That is something that hasn’t happened at UVA since. Four of those starters were drafted and went on to NFL careers. What made that group special?
Bowanko: We had an amazing coach in Coach Wach [Scott Wachenheim]. He gave us all of the tools to succeed. We were also pretty lucky to have some great running backs, Perry [Jones] and KP [Kevin Parks] and also a QB [Michael Rocco] who knew the system and got rid of the ball quickly. Aside from that, guys like Morgan [Moses], Austin [Pasztor] and Oday [Aboushi] were so talented that it really made my job a whole lot easier.
Q: You have had the opportunity to play with some of your former UVA teammates in the NFL. Which was your favorite reunion and why?
Bowanko: Well Austin [Pasztor] welcomed me into the league in Jacksonville and his wife gracefully let me move into their guest bedroom for a short period of time while I got settled. I have to say playing with Morgan [Moses] in DC was pretty special. It was my last run, my body wasn’t really there anymore, and I was basically scrapping and clawing just to stay on the roster and Mo was there every step of the way.
Q: What is the Virginia Football brotherhood like for you in the NFL? When you face another Cavalier, whether you were teammates with them or not, do you try to connect at all?
Bowanko: Absolutely, it was always good to run into former teammates as well as guys that came before/after. Everyone has an awareness of who’s where and makes a point to meet up before or after the game.
Q: Virginia has had some special offensive linemen in its program over the years and you are part of that legacy. What are your reflections of that legacy?
Bowanko: I am super grateful to have been able to play at a school with such a long list of greats at that position. I think it’s a legacy that is still being written and I am just honored to have been a small part of it.
Q: Who do you keep in contact the most from your UVA days? Has the recent pandemic created any Zoom calls with former teammates?
Bowanko: There is a group of us who keep in touch through various mediums and Zoom seems to be the taste of the season. We had one session a few weeks back where one text led to another and next thing you know we have a whole cast of characters in the room. From Perry Jones trying to get his daughter to eat her greens all the way to Coach Anthony Poindexter, Coach Shawn Moore stopping in. It was great to catch up and laugh about the old days.
Q: Speaking of UVA friends, you created some lasting friendships during your time in Charlottesville. There is even photo evidence of you all dressing up for WrestleMania in Dallas. What has kept that unit so close over the years and what is a memory that sticks out the most?
Bowanko: I think we’re just all so weird that it’s tough to make new friends that really understand what’s going on. That ‘Mania photo is a tough one to explain to people.
Q: What was your most memorable moment or moments from your time at UVA?
Bowanko: The 2011 season was so much fun for us. Winning some big games on big stages in some pressure moments, those will stick with me forever.
Q: You are a self-proclaimed Oriole fan. Is baseball your favorite sport other than football and what is your favorite thing about going to Camden Yards?
Bowanko: Baseball is definitely up there. The Birds have had some really fun teams over the past couple decades, especially during the Buck Showalter years, even though the perception might tell a different story. Camden is an unbelievable park. Anyone who goes has to get some pre-game frothy tops from Pickles Pub and a “Big Boog” BBQ sandwich from Boogs out in right field.
Q: Looking back at UVA’s 2019 ACC Coastal title team, as an alum, who was your favorite player or unit to watch?
Bowanko: I mean it was obviously the offensive line, right? In all seriousness, Offensive line as a position is already one where you usually don’t get enough credit when things are going well and receive an unfair amount when it’s not. And I thought this group as a unit really grew stronger as the season went. They were in my opinion criticized unfairly at times on social media, but you could tell that they believed in what was being taught and were far more concerned with improving week to week and ended up setting the tone for a really successful and physical offense. Super fun to watch and awesome so many of them will be returning.
Q: What do you miss most about Charlottesville?
Bowanko: No question the food. I am sure a lot of it is a situation where I remember it better than maybe it actually is, but that’s perfectly fine. The city has every type of spot you could want, and it’s all great.
Q: Have you been binge-watching any shows or movies, if so – what has been your favorite?
Bowanko: Who hasn’t been during this time? Thankfully we are in a time of endless content, because with every show I finish someone is recommending another one. A few of my favorites have been Ozark, Drive to Survive, Tiger King, #BlackAF and I’m sure a few others I can’t think of off the top of my head.
Q: What is next for you? Are you looking to continue the NFL dream this fall or lining up your next chapter?
Bowanko: I am fully retired and I am in the process of building a business in real estate. I still remain super active and would like to compete athletically in the future through some other mediums. But for now, I am focused on healing my body and discovering new passions.
Q: To close, what advice do you have for any young football player trying to make it to college, or in college trying to make it to the NFL?
Bowanko: Enjoy the good moments, don’t dwell too much on the tough ones. Work as hard as you can at your craft but remember, it’s okay to have a good time with the boys.
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