Bowman was born in District Heights, Maryland on May 28, 1988. He started sports at a young age and was a member of District Heights boys and girls club, where he played both basketball and football and was invited to many All-star Events. Bowman was a standout player at Suitland High School in Forestville, Maryland. He missed most of his senior season with a shoulder injury, but he had a very impressive junior campaign in which he recorded 165 tackles, 9 sacks, and 3 fumble recoveries as a linebacker and ran for 1,200 yards and 22 touchdowns as a running back. He was named the Maryland Defensive Player-of-the-Year, first-team All-State, Washington Post first-team All-Met and first-team All-Conference. He was recruited to Penn State by Larry Johnson, Sr.
Bowman played for the Penn State Nittany Lions football team while attending Penn State University from 2006 to 2009.
After redshirting the 2006 season, Bowman played in nine games in 2007. He missed two games due to a sprained ankle suffered in a game against Illinois. He recorded 16 tackles, with a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a blocked kick, and a pass breakup that season.
Bowman saw increased playing time in 2008, largely due to the graduation of All-American linebacker Dan Connor and injury to presumptive starter Sean Lee. Despite the attrition, however, Bowman kept the Nittany Lions ranked in the top ten among three primary defensive categories. Individually, Bowman led the Nittany Lions in total tackles (106), solos (61), and assisted tackles (45), was second in tackles for loss (16.5) and tied for third in sacks (4.0). He also forced two fumbles, recovered a fumble, grabbed an interception and had five pass breakups.
His first start came in week four versus Temple. He recorded 11 tackles, including five tackles for loss and three sacks, a forced fumble and an interception in the 45-3 win and was named Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week.
He finished the season with a heavy heart and an outstanding performance. Bowman played against Southern California in the 2009 Rose Bowl one day after his high school coach, Nick Lynch, was killed in an automobile accident in Maryland. Bowman responded by breaking the Penn State bowl record with five tackles for loss (minus-21 yards), and tying the Rose Bowl record set by Ohio State's Andy Katzenmoyer in the 1997 game. He also recorded his fourth sack of the season among his eight tackles (seven solo) against the Trojans. For his superb efforts against USC, Bowman was selected to ESPN.com's 2008-09 All-Bowl team, one of two Big Ten players named to the squad.
At season's end, he was named a first-team All-Big Ten selection.Maryland Defensive PoY (2005)
Maryland All-State (2005)
Washington Post All-Met (2005)
Big Ten Defensive PoW (9/20/2008), (11/14/2009)
All-Big Ten (2008)
On January 4, 2010, Bowman's mother announced his decision to forgo his final year of NCAA eligibility and enter the 2010 NFL Draft.
On the second day of the 2010 NFL Draft, Bowman was selected in the third round with the 91st overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers. He wears number 53.
Bowman played in all 16 games, starting one in place of Patrick Willis. Willis was ruled out for Week 17 after undergoing a second surgery on his broken right hand. He finished his rookie year with 46 tackles.
In his second NFL season, Bowman became the starter at inside linebacker with the departure of Takeo Spikes to free agency. Starting alongside All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis, Bowman made huge strides and finished the year with 143 tackles, 2 sacks, and 8 pass deflections. In addition, he was also the team leader in tackles, while finishing second in the NFL in solo tackles. With the emergence in Bowman's play, he helped a top ranked 49ers defense set a NFL single season record of not allowing a rushing touchdown for 14 games. The previous record was held by the 1920 Decatur Staleys, who did not allow a rushing touchdown in a 13-game season. Starting all 16 games in 2011, Bowman finished the year with 143 tackles, 2 sacks, 8 passes defended, and 3 fumble recoveries. The 49ers finished with a 13-3 record for an NFC West pennant but lost to the eventual Super Bowl champ New York Giants 17-20 in the NFC Championship game in overtime. Although he was not voted to the Pro Bowl for his stellar season, he was named to the First-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press. He was also voted No. 85 on NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2012, which recognizes performance from the previous season.
In 2012, Bowman again started all 16 games with 148 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception, 6 passes defended, and 1 forced fumble. Bowman once again earned First-Team All-Pro honors, and was one of a league high nine 49ers selected to the Pro Bowl, six of which came from the defensive side.
Bowman and the 49ers finished the 2012 campaign with an 11-4-1 record, good for second in the NFC. San Francisco took down the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional round of the playoffs in dominating fashion, in which Bowman recorded 6 tackles and 2 pass break-ups. In the following week's NFC Championship game in Atlanta, Bowman had another 2 tackles and a pass break-up, one of which was on the Falcons' most pivotal play of the game. Matt Ryan had led Atlanta downfield for what was shaping up to be a come-from-behind, last-second victory. Bowman's deflection of Ryan's intended pass to Roddy White sealed the 49ers' victory with just over a minute remaining. Bowman and the 49ers reached Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens. Bowman had 9 tackles in the game but the 49ers lost 34-31.
For the third time, Bowman earned First-Team All-Pro honors and was fifth in the league in tackles with 145. Then, on December 23, 2013, live on Monday Night Football, Bowman scored the last touchdown ever at Candlestick Park, intercepting a Matt Ryan pass and returning it 89 yards for a touchdown with just over a minute left. For the 2013 year, Bowman made 16 starts with 145 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 9 passes defended, 6 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries.
Bowman and the 49ers finished the 2013 season with a 12-4 record. San Francisco defeated the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in the Wild card round of the playoffs in which Bowman had 10 tackles, and a forced fumble. In the divisional round of the playoffs, San Francisco defeated the Carolina Panthers 23-10 behind a strong performance by Bowman, who recorded 11 tackles and 1 sack. San Francisco played the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game, with the winner gaining the right to represent the conference in Super Bowl XLVIII. However, the 49ers lost, 23-17. In the fourth quarter of that game, Bowman suffered a serious injury, tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee.
Bowman did not participate for the entire 2014 season, rehabbing from a torn ACL and MCL.
Bowman returned to the 49ers after missing all of the previous season. There was significant concern about his health but he started all 16 games for the 49ers in 2015. He finished the season with a career-high and league leading 154 tackles making his third Pro Bowl appearance and his fourth 1st Team All-Pro appearance. He also accounted for 2.5 sacks and 2 passes defensed. He was ranked 61st on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.
During a game against the Dallas Cowboys on October 2, Bowman fell down, gripping the lower back end of his foot. MRI tests later revealed that Bowman had a torn achilles tendon. He missed the rest of the 2016 season.
On the play which he suffered his season-ending injury, Bowman stripped Seahawks' wide receiver Jermaine Kearse of the ball near the goal line, and appeared to take over possession. However, the officials ruled the ball to be in possession of the Seahawks. Under the instant replay conditions at the time, the officials were not permitted to take a second look. On March 26, 2014, team owners approved a change that would allow the referees to review the recovery of a loose ball. A similar proposal to allow coaches to question any recovery using one of their challenges was voted down.
Bowman graduated with a degree in crime, law, and justice. Bowman speaks frequently by phone with former Nittany Lion linebacker LaVar Arrington. The two first met during Arrington's stint with the Washington Redskins, when Bowman was playing at nearby Suitland High School. This friendship, along with their similarity in playing styles, has earned Bowman the nickname "LaVorro".