The Camellia Bowl honors its annual Alabama Football Legend Award recipient at a luncheon the day before the game, but former All-American linebacker Woodrow Lowe wasn’t sure why he had been selected.
“I am truly honored,” Lowe said before spending a lot of time telling why he didn’t deserve the award. “From a humble heart and with heartfelt appreciation, gratitude, I say thanks to the Camellia Bowl.”
Lowe is one of three players from this state to ever earn All-America honors three times, joining Auburn center Walter Gilbert (1934-36) and Alabama linebacker Cornelius Bennett (1984-86). Lowe set the standard as a sophomore in 1973 with 134 tackles, a school record that remains to this day.
His 315 career tackles from 1972-75 was a school record that was unmatched at the time and is currently fourth behind Wayne Davis (1983-86), Thomas Boyd (1979-82) and C.J. Mosley (2010-13). Lowe played on three Southeastern Conference championship teams and one national champion (1973) and played 11 seasons in the National Football League with the San Diego Chargers.
The Alabama Football Legend Award, presented by Regions, went to Birmingham native and former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden in 2014 and former Auburn coach Pat Dye in 2015.
“I had an opportunity to meet Coach Bowden,” Lowe said, “and I was so submissive, just getting a chance to shake his hand. And, of course, Coach Dye recruited me and he coached me at Alabama. That’s my coach. These awards, we’ve gotten a lot of them but football isn’t about who I am, it’s just what I do.”
After retiring from the NFL, Lowe got into coaching at the high school, collegiate and professional ranks, most notably with his alma mater, Central High in Phenix City. He retired last year from Jackson State.
“In recruiting, you always judge a young man when they shake your hard,” Toledo coach Jason Candle said. “I shook Woodrow’s hand last night and he almost took my arm off. I know this guy was real when he played football.”
Lowe was one of the best linebackers to ever play for Paul “Bear” Bryant and spent much of his time at the Friday luncheon using Bryant-isms as a teaching moment for the Toledo and Appalachian State players.
“The lessons of discipline, sacrifice, hard work, team work, fighting to achieve, aren’t being taught by many people other than coaches,” Lowe said, reading a Bryant quote from his final years as Alabama’s coach before retiring in 1982.
“A football coach has a captive audience and can teach these lessons because the communication lines between himself and his players are more open than between kids and parents. We’d better teach these lessons or else the country’s future population will be made up of a majority of crooks, drug addicts or people on relief.
“He was surely ahead of his time as far as the game and with people,” Lowe concluded.