Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman: Path to the NFL DRaft
In a deeply talented 2021 NFL Draft wide receiver class, just catching college passes isn’t going to guarantee hearing your name called in Cleveland. Versatility, athleticism, and leadership are as big a part of the process as receiving yards and touchdowns. Thankfully for Northwestern wide receiver Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, he just so happens to tick all the above boxes.
“I’m versatile. I’m gonna get done what you need to get done and more. I’ll be a steal of a pick not only because of my receiver play but my special teams play as well. Other than that, bringing the guys together, bringing the team together and making sure I’m better than those around me.”
Position? Lets Go With 'Athlete'
Although many players play both sides of the ball in high school, Minneapolis native Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman may have had the most versatile introduction to the game at the high school level of anyone in this 2021 NFL Draft class.
At Breck High School, he played QB, RB, WR, FS, CB, KR, PR, and also saw time as a kicker. It was an incredibly versatile introduction to the sport that helped grow his understanding of the game.
“To be able to understand the defensive side of the ball, specifically at corner, how you’re moving, what your keys are, what your triggers are when going up against receivers, that only elevated my game. I continue to learn from that side of the ball. Even in practice, I still make sure I can get in and out of my breaks as a DB. You never know, the more opportunity you create the more chance you have of success.”
Success is a key word for understanding Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman’s early football career. Breck wasn’t a football powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination. However, he holds several receiving records at the program while also leading the team to an appearance in the state basketball playoffs. He also holds the school record for triple jump and long jump, once again showcasing athletic versatility.
“We never made it to state, but we made it to the game right before state. My development on the basketball court really enabled me to take another step in my game on the football field too. Obviously, I’m not going to be triple jumping on Sunday’s – or probably ever again – but the fact that scouts, coaches, and GM’s, can see that they’ve got an athletic guy, co-ordinated guy. He’s not just running straight, he’s not just jumping up and making catches. He can get in and out of his breaks, he can move really well. It’s that versatility piece adding on to my resume.”
Late Recruiting Attention Sees Chiaokhiao-Bowman Find A 'Home Away From Home'
Despite Breck not being a football powerhouse, in a state also not known as a football hotbed, Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman was a three-star recruit. However, the early attention in the recruiting cycle alluded the versatile playmaker.
“We just don’t get the same respect as other states. So, early on there wasn’t any doubt that I could play at the next level but still at the back of my mind I was wondering when the offer was going to come. As a young un – I still the young bucks and my little homies at my high school – everybody wants to get like 20 or 30 offers. At the end of the day you only need one, that one school that actually wants you. Junior year I had a decent season and I was able to travel to some camps at a couple colleges, Stanford and Northwestern being the primary two. When it came to one-on-ones at the camps, I took care of business and it opened up a lot of opportunities for me.”
From those prospect camps, Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman landed offers from his hometown team, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and from his eventual home away from home, Northwestern.
“It was a blessing, and I was so appreciative to get that offer from your hometown. A lot of people say it but it’s hard to put into words. It was a dream type feeling. But that reason I went with Northwestern was the staff, and the guys on the team that I was able to meet. I felt like I clicked with the guys on the team and the athletic department as a whole. I felt like it would be a great step for me to get away from home.”
Education First, Football Education Second
Northwestern would add another element, another layer to Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman as an NFL Draft prospect, and as a person. The university has a reputation for academic excellence, and he has been on the All-Big Ten Academic Team multiple times throughout his time there.
“It was important so that my mum didn’t slap me upside the head” he laughs before continuing “My mum has always preached being diverse, well-rounded, make sure you’re handling your business in all aspects of your life. I try to really live that, so school has been a part of that. It opens up opportunities during football, after football, just building your network. The more people you know…”
Before there was a “during football” at Northwestern, there would be a year away from the field in 2016. Having been the standout at Breck, his first year on campus would see him take a redshirt.
“It was a little difficult. Just difficult in terms of not being used to it. It wasn’t anything that got me down or stopped me from working hard. It was just a learning process. After a couple of games, after realising what my role was, I was able to change my mindset to how much can I learn from this so when I am playing next year, I can really handle business. It turned into a great learning opportunity.”
Leadership in Adversity
To use his own phrase, Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman began to “handle business” in 2017. He snagged his first college touchdown against Wisconsin. However, in testament to his hunger and commitment to the team cause, that touchdown served more as inspiration than anything else.
“It was lit! I wish it could have been more lit, just being a competitor and wanting to win. At that time there was still a chance in the game that we could comeback. It was just one of those working back touchdowns. I wish it could have been the game winning touchdown, that would have been sweet. I was hoping that more would come soon after that, but they didn’t. So I just kept my head down, kept working.”
Although the next touchdown wouldn’t come in 2018 or 2019, it was a successful period for Northwestern as a team. The Wildcats had two winning seasons and in 2018 won the Big Ten West for the first time in program history.
However, 2019 wasn’t such a good season for the program, going 3-9 just one season after making the Big Ten Championship Game. You are defined by how you handle adversity more than how you celebrate success and Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman embraced the opportunity to emerge as a leader.
“This was a time for me to work on my leadership. During losing seasons it’s easy for teams to fall apart. It’s easy for a team to start talking, pointing fingers, and blaming. I realised that quickly and understood that if we wanted any chance of winning in the coming Saturdays but also having a future with this team, as in having a successful future with this team next year, that process starts now.”
The Game That Got Away
The approach led to a successful 2020 season. With a suffocating defense and an offense rejuvenated by the transfer of Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey, the Wildcats returned to the Big Ten Championship Game in the most disrupted of seasons. Unlike the 2018 appearance, this time they took the fight to Ohio State, giving the Buckeyes an early shock before eventually coming out on the wrong side of the result again.
“We knew we could beat them. We were thinking we were going to win. Second half from the top down we didn’t take care of business.”
It was the final game of what had been a breakout year of sorts for Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman. He set career high receptions, touchdowns, and receiving yards while putting up multiple touchdowns against Purdue and his only career 100 receiving yard game against Ohio State.
“I immediately look back and think, man I could have had one more touchdown, could have had some more catches, could have had some more yards. After that; it was amazing man. You hear “trust the process” a lot in sports, but really in anything when you’re working, to be able to trust that process at Northwestern. Some highs, some lows, some seasons with no touchdowns, injuries, things like that. To be able to trust the process and see some type of reward come to fruition, that’s a great feeling. It also keeps me hungry, keeps me thirsty, to trust the process even more. My senior season though man, full of memories, good dudes, great plays, big games. Yeah. Wish we could have had that Ohio State game…”
Family, Friends & Football
Trust the process is a big part of Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman’s approach to this NFL Draft process. After consultation with family and friends, he made the decision to enter the 2021 NFL Draft in what may well be the most difficult year ever to get an opportunity.
“At the end of the day, you don’t control any of that. You control how high you jump, how fast you run, how many balls you catch, how good your routes are – well for me at least. I acknowledge the new circumstances. Those things are fact and they’re not going to change. I try to focus on the things that I can control, and then attack them!”
That opportunity to attack them will come at Northwestern’s Pro Day on March 9th. He’s currently training in Minneapolis to ensure he makes the most of that opportunity when it comes. His journey has come almost full circle as he prepares for the next footstep on the path to the NFL Draft. Back on home soil, he reflects on the role that his hometown and his family had early on in his journey.
“My love of football came from my pops, and his side of the family. Football was always big. My cousins were down in Texas playing football. My cousins here in Minneapolis were playing football. Growing up, football was what we were meant to be doing. Ages 3,4,5, I already knew I wanted to play football.”
Remember The Name
He points to one specific player that helped shaped his game as a young kid.
The energetic influence is easy to see once it’s pointed out.
“Chad Ochocinco has really stuck with me through my middle school, high school, college, and up to now days. His energy, his play, those amazing acrobatic catches and his footwork on the field.”
As he describes his own game in three simple words, the similarities are also there to see.
“Quickness. Separation. Big-plays.”
One play from his Northwestern career encapsulates all three elements and serves as an advertisement for NFL teams looking for a wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft.
“The last game playing Auburn I ran a deeper in stem corner. They were manned up and I utilised not only my quickness off the line, my route recognition, my defense recognition, and my speed and finishing over the shoulder down the field. The NFL is about making big plays. Being able to illustrate that as one of my skills and highlight that, Auburn for sure.”
With just over two months until the 2021 NFL Draft, he says it would “mean the world. It would be amazing” to hear his name called. The following explanation may come in handy for whoever announces the selection of Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman later this spring.
“So, the correct pronunciation is, this is how I explain it. JOW (J-O-W), KEY, O.”
It’s a name that NFL fans – and defenses – should become accustomed to.
OLIVER HODGKINSON IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER FOR THE TOUCHDOWN. HE ALSO WRITES ON THE NFL FOR THE PRO FOOTBALL NETWORK. YOU CAN HEAR HIS OPINIONS ON ALL THINGS COLLEGE FOOTBALL AS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.
Huge thanks to Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman for taking the time to speak to us.