FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - There are 576 miles between Fort Lauderdale and Saint Mary, Jamaica. From Richmond to Fort Lauderdale, it's even further, 926 miles, to be precise. But the distance hasn't kept VCU's Romena Bowie from thinking about the balmy south Florida city, even if it felt, at times, as if it was light years away.
This weekend, Bowie will step on the field with 49 other collegiate soccer stars at the 2013 Adidas MLS Combine at Central Broward Regional Park in Fort Lauderdale. A dream that often seemed out of reach for the Saint Mary, Jamaica native is now within his grasp.
"Before coming to VCU, I honestly never thought that anything like this would ever be possible," Bowie said.
Over the past four years, Bowie has helped VCU Head Coach Dave Giffard transform the Rams into a national presence in collegiate soccer. During Bowie's career, VCU has earned back-to-back NCAA Tournament bids and top-25 rankings in three of the four years.
Beyond the team accomplishments, the gifted midfielder earned plenty of individual accolades with three all-conference honors, two all-region honors and a spot on the Hermann Trophy Watch List entering this past fall.
"Bowie's growth and progress over the last 3.5 years is a testament to the environment that we (coaches, players and administrators) have been able to create here at VCU in a very short amount of time," Giffard said. "Although he is just beginning to scratch the surface on what he is capable of, I know that Romena leaves us a different player and person than the one that arrived here in August of 2010. I'm very proud of him and excited for the next step in his journey."
Coming to VCU, Bowie's potential was apparent, but it was the fine tuning over the past four years that he credits for getting him to this point.
"VCU has helped me more than anyone would ever know," Bowie said. "I had the raw talent coming into to VCU, but not the maturity or calmness that it takes to be successful at the professional level. The college experience has ultimately allowed me to have a better understanding of what the professional level is like and with this gained understanding I hope to continue playing the game I love at the highest level."
Entering this weekend's combine, Bowie is projected anywhere from late first round to second round pick in next week's MLS SuperDraft. With a good weekend, a first round selection is within reach.
"I'm actually feeling pretty calm going into this weekend," Bowie said. "I have nothing to lose and much to gain from this experience. I've been working hard on my fitness with Coach [Chad] Workman, on my ball skills and getting up to my speed of play, which has allowed me to be in a better place going into this weekend. I'm looking forward to being in the professional environment, which I know will only help in my development."
Bowie is the second VCU player in as many years to go through the combine experience. Jason Johnson participated in the 2013 combine and was drafted 13th overall by the Houston Dynamo.
"J.J. has been a great resource for a lot of things, but I honestly haven't spoken with him about the combine experience," Bowie said. "I want to just concentrate on working hard and pushing myself to ensure I'm in the best possible position this weekend."
The six-day combine will consist of interviews, practices and games in front of personnel from all 19 MLS organizations. It's an experience that would bring anxiety and nerves to most folks, but when that experience never seemed possible, it's just about focusing on working hard and enjoying the process, something that Bowie says he's relishing.