‘One of the best decisions I’ve made’: Matt Bowen’s played in big games, but his heart remains with prep football

Before diving into more NFL and college game film, Matt Bowen takes a minute to talk about his true passion.

A former all-state football player and three-sports athlete at Glenbard West, Bowen played in bowl games at Iowa and in the NFL playoffs during a seven-year career with the Rams, Green Bay, Washington and Buffalo.

Incredible experiences, Bowen said, but they’re matched by the satisfaction he gets from high school football as an assistant coach at IC Catholic Prep in Elmhurst.

“I love everything about the high school game,” said Bowen, 47. “What you have on Friday nights can rival anything.”

Bowen works as an analyst for ESPN, distributing fantasy football advice, player breakdowns, free agency matches, draft analysis and much more on the website and to his 106,000 followers on X, formerly Twitter. He also appears on television and radio, including regular spots on WSCR-AM.

Right now he’s swimming in Super Bowl and draft preparation.

In the fall, though, you’ll find him on the sideline at Plunkett Field in Elmhurst. He’s been been at IC Catholic Prep since 2015 and helped the program to four IHSA state titles under head coach Bill Krefft.

While he’s glad to talk about his days of playing for legends like Joe Gibbs and Kirk Ferentz, and with future NFL Hall of Famers, a spark rises when talking about the Knights.

“I’ve always wanted to coach,” Bowen said. “I think I needed it. The willingness and desire to compete never leaves you, and you want a like-minded environment. Football’s different. You’re not going to find that in every day life.

“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

Former NFL player Matt Bowen, an analyst at ESPN, is an assistant coach at IC Catholic Prep. Courtesy of Matt Bowen

Bowen holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and earned a master’s degree from DePaul in writing and publishing after he retired from the NFL following the 2006 season.

He started writing for various publications while also making television and radio appearances. Bowen’s been at ESPN for about a decade.

Along the way, he and his wife, Shawn, have raised four boys in Elmhurst who are now 17, 16, 13 and 10 years old. In addition to coaching at IC Catholic Prep, where he’ll begin working with his second-youngest son next season, Bowen also helps with the Pop Warner Elmhurst Bears, where his kids have played.

His oldest son competes for the Special Olympics, while his second-oldest runs cross country and track at York High School.

In addition to being an assistant coach at IC Catholic Prep, Matt Bowen coaches a Pop Warner Elmhurst Bears team. Courtesy of Marya Gibbons

The decision to pursue high school coaching as opposed to college or pro, which was a definite possibility, came down to family stability and a choice by the Bowens to settle in Elmhurst.

While getting routine maintenance for his myriad football injuries at Olympia Chiropractic and Physical Therapy in Elmhurst, he talked to Dr. Michael Calcagno, an IC grad who played at Bowling Green. Calcagno asked Bowen if he wanted to coach at IC Catholic, and the rest is history.

Bowen plans to stay at IC Catholic at least until his youngest son goes through the program.

The focus won’t change. It never has.

“This is the last line of competitive innocence,” Bowen said. “It’s not the business of winning yet. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve been a part of.”

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.