BANGOR, Maine — When he was carrying the ball for Orono High School, Christian Mowrer was an opposing linebacker’s worst nightmare.
He was quick, hard-nosed and determined to squeeze out every yard he could get. It was hard to bring the rugged 180-pounder down.
Now, as a senior at Husson University in Bangor, he is a headache for running backs. Mowrer is an inside linebacker for the Eagles, who beat No. 20 and previously undefeated Springfield 23-21 for the program’s first-ever NCAA Division III playoff win.
“That was very exciting,” said Mowrer, who made seven tackles and forced a fumble in the win. “It’s still hard to believe. But it’s on to the next challenge.”
That next challenge is No. 5 Delaware Valley (11-0) in Saturday’s noon second-round game at Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
“It has been a blessing. We have all worked really hard,” Mowrer said.
“This is something people dream about when you start playing Pop Warner and youth football. Playing football in the NCAA playoffs and being one of 16 teams left,” he added.
Mowrer is Husson’s second-leading tackler behind fellow linebacker Elvin Suazo Jr. Mowrer has been in on 60 tackles this season, including 38 solos, and made 7.5 tackles for a loss, including two sacks.
This is his first season as a starter and as a linebacker. He had played safety until Husson head coach Gabby Price and his staff decided to move him to linebacker last spring.
“I love it. It’s an aggressive position. I’ve always played aggressively. You get down and dirty,” Mowrer said.
“Safeties are smaller and quicker now and he has a prototype body for a linebacker,” Price explained. “He is also a very physical player. He’s very aggressive. It fits his personality.”
“I was willing to play anywhere I had to,” Mowrer said.
Mowrer has overcome several challenges during his college career and has shown resilience and determination.
He was a freshman in 2014, and as a sophomore, he appeared in eight games with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception.
But he suffered a hip injury and had to undergo surgery.
“I didn’t know how much football I had left in me,” Mowrer admitted.
Then he suffered a high ankle sprain and missed his entire junior year.
“I tried to come back from it, but I couldn’t make any cuts. I couldn’t push off. It was very frustrating,” Mowrer said.
“He has been a model of perseverance,” Husson linebackers coach Ed Mestieri said. “He stayed with it. I am so pleased for him personally, for all that he has been through here. We are all happy to see his him have the level of success he has had. He has been instrumental in us really becoming a very good defense.”
Husson’s defense ranks fifth among 250 Division III schools in yards allowed per game (221.6) and is 12th in scoring defense (12.1 ppg). The Eagles have the nation’s 26th best rushing defense (94.4 ypg).
They also have the seventh best pass defense, allowing opponents to complete just 43.3 percent of their passes for 127.3 yards per game with a pass efficiency rating of 88.73.
“We hit you hard and we fly to the ball,” Mowrer said. “We go into every game with that mentality.”
Mowrer is undersized for a linebacker at 5-foot-11, 225 pounds, but it doesn’t faze him.
“I’ve still got the [aggressive] attitude and that makes up for it,” Mowrer said.
“He has made the adjustment exceptionally well,” Mestieri said.
“He always had his playbook, he was always taking notes and asking questions. He wanted to look at film on the side. He was very diligent,” Mestieri said. “He is unselfish and a hard worker.”
Mowrer played with twin brother Cameron and older brother Dominic at Orono High where he was a defensive end and then a safety as well as a running back.
Dominic Mowrer preceded him at Husson, playing two seasons in the secondary.
Christian Mowrer had intended to walk on at the University of Maine in Orono but wasn’t eligible so he talked to Price and decided to attend Husson.
“I would rather be here than anyplace else. I’ve learned a lot about myself in my four years here,” Mowrer said. “The camaraderie on this team is special. My teammates are very good people on and off the field. It’s an amazing feeling. We have a lot of pride.”
He credited Mestieri and defensive coordinator Grant Caserta with helping him make the transition from safety to linebacker and Price for “making me a better young man.
“Coach Price is an amazing man. The first thing we talked about on the very first day of practice was treating women with respect. That says a lot,” Mowrer said.
Mowrer is a criminal justice major and intends to apply to the police force in Austin, Texas.
Another positive influence on his life has been his supportive mother, Therese.
“She is a very big part of [my success]. She is another reason why I stay on top of my classes and my schooling,” Mowrer said.
Price said Mowrer is playing the best football of his career.
“His reads are getting better all the time. He likes to get to the football,” Price said.
“He has meant a lot to the team,” Husson standout senior running back John Smith said. “He has been battling and battling for the last three to four years, and it’s good to see him having his time to shine and lead the defense. He is a great leader, a great football player and an excellent person.”
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