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MSU-N Game Day Feature: As dependable as they come

MSU-N senior linebacker Garet Fowler got on the field early in his career, and he never left it

 

November 3, 2017

Colin Thompson

Northern senior Garet Fowler will play his final home game of an incredible career this Saturday.

When you think of the prototype football player, that tough, gritty, gutty, hard-nosed player, the one who always seems to have mud and grass stains all over his uniform, one of the positions that best typifies that is middle linebacker. You think of that position and you automatically think – football.

The Montana State University-Northern Lights have had one of those guys for the last four seasons. He's a throwback to the kind of linebacker, the kind of football player that you picture when thinking about the 1985 Chicago Bears, or any other legendary defense.

And Garet Fowler is a guy who knew exactly what type of football player he wanted to be the minute he stepped onto Northern's campus.

But, when Fowler was recruited by then head coach Mark Samson, out of Class A Belgrade High School, the odds of him becoming that player, at least early on, were stacked against him.

"Coach Samson told me I was going to redshirt," Fowler, who will play his last game in Blue Pony Stadium Saturday when the Lights take on Southern Oregon, said. "We were loaded at linebacker."

Fowler signed with Northern anyway, and, while the Lights did have a lot of linebackers, he didn't care. He was determined to see the field as soon as he got to MSU-N.

"That motivated me honestly," Fowler said. "I worked hard that whole summer, I wanted to come here and play right away. I wanted to start actually. Back then, we ran a 4-3 defense, and we had 17 linebackers on the room when I got here. I wasn't even on the depth chart at the start of fall camp. But then one day, I was third strong, and the next day I was second string, and by midseason, I was starting. I guess I just strived to earn my way onto the field."

And once he was on the field, Fowler never left.

In eight games his freshman season, he had 20 tackles and an interception. By the next fall camp, he was entrenched in the starting lineup, and his growth as a football player accelerated even faster. In 11 games in 2015, Fowler recorded 73 stops, two sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss. By the time the season was over, he was already one of the best middle linebackers in the Frontier Conference, and he had two years still to play.

"I set high goals for myself right away," Fowler said. "But one of the biggest things for me, was everything I learned from Coach (Arthur) Smith. He showed me so much about this position. To be good at your position, you listen to your coaches, you trust the process, and then you also put in the extra work on your own. That's what I've always done."

That formula has worked for Fowler. By the end of his junior season, he had recorded 94 tackles, including 56 solo stops. He finished the season second in the Frontier Conference in tackles, and added another interception and five TFL's to his resume, in a season that without a doubt should have earned him an All-Conference nod.

But, during his sophomore and junior seasons, Fowler didn't just become one of the best defensive players in the league, something else came his way as well – leadership. Even as a sophomore, Fowler was already looked at as a veteran leader on a young Northern defense, and, just like him never leaving the starting lineup, he's been one of Northern's biggest team leaders ever since, including being named a captain for the last two seasons.

"When I moved to that Mike linebacker position my sophomore year, that's always been the position where you're kind of the captain of the defense," Fowler said. "So even though I was playing with a lot of older guys, I knew I had to step up and into that leadership role. I'm not the most vocal leader. I'll say what needs to be said, but I've just always tried to lead by example."

And the example he's set is two-fold.

First, Fowler is simply one of the best defensive players in the conference, regardless of position. Through nine games in his final season, he's recorded 97 tackles, already surpassing last year's total. He also five more TFL's and two picks. With two games to go, he's leading the Frontier in tackles by a wide margin, and while Northern's defense has struggled mightily this season, ask any opposing coach in the league, and they'll tell you, they game plan for No. 12 in maroon.

The second way Fowler has led by example is, simply, the fact that he's a Light. In his four years at Northern, he's seen just five wins, and been on the receiving end of some brutal losses. He's also played through four different coaching moves along the way. And yet, he's not only still at MSU-N, he's one of the unquestioned leaders of a Lights' program that is trying to find its way out of the darkness and into brighter days ahead.

Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's linebacker Garet Fowler, right, makes a tackle during a Frontier Conference game earlier this season in Havre. Fowler leads the Frontier Conference this fall with 97 tackles. He's led the Lights in tackles in each of the last three seasons as well. Fowler, a Belgrade native, will play his final home game Saturday afternoon when the Lights host Southern Oregon.

"The biggest thing for me is my family, my last name" Fowler said on why he's stayed at Northern through all of the difficult times. "I want to make them proud. I do it for them. I want to show them how proud I am of my last name."

With all that Fowler's been through, and with all of his great play on the field, 284 career tackles, there's no question his family is beaming with pride. And while from a team and results standpoint, Fowler is one of so many Lights who haven't seen the brightest side of college football, he insists, ahead of his last eight quarters of college football, he has no regrets.

And it's easy to see why. When you're a guy like Garet Fowler, when you have given the game of football, your team and your school everything you've got, as he's done for 38 games now, then, no matter what the scoreboard says, there's no reason to ever have regret.

"I am proud of what I've done here," Fowler said. "I know what I've put into it. I've put in a lot of hard work for this program. I've given what I could of myself. So, I don't have any regrets because of the work I've put in."

 

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