During his junior year at Ohio, Joe Lowery had a realization. The offensive tackle grew up in Tallmadge, OH, as a fervent fan of future Hall of Fame offensive tackle Joe Thomas and the Cleveland Browns. Lowery watched film on Thomas and even emulated some of the techniques of the longtime Browns star. During his junior year, Lowery’s stock skyrocketed after a breakout campaign, and suddenly, playing the same position in the same league Thomas once reigned transformed from a dream to a reality.
“I know he’s one of the greatest there was,” Lowery said on Thomas. “During my junior year, I had people reach out to me. I always thought I was good but I didn’t think I was THAT good.”
Coaches and teammates have always viewed Lowery as one of the humble, quieter players on a given roster, but his leadership qualities still remain on full display. This persona mixed perfectly with Lowery’s college head coach Frank Solich, a mild-mannered veteran who can be credited for Ohio and Lowery’s recent track record of on-field success.
“I think we’re blessed with him because he’s been around in the coaching world for a long time and he’s been in situations that others may have not been in, so he knows how to handle things,” Lowery said of Solich. “He’s very calm and relaxed for the most part. I think he really rubs off on the players in the sense that we need to stay calm and control what we can control.”
Solich’s impact on Lowery’s leadership didn’t go unnoticed. When Bobcats’ offensive line coach Dave Johnson departed to Colorado State in January 2018 and Bart Miller assumed Johnson’s former role, Miller immediately noticed the calm leadership qualities Lowery brought to the unit.
“He’s not a big talker, he’s not a big verbal guy, but he’s very composed. He’s definitely the alpha of that room in a way like most true alpha males are — they don’t have to say a lot, but when they do, people listen,” Miller said. “We changed quite a bit when I got there in terms of technique and that’s never easy for a guy whose played for one coach his whole career, to come in all of a sudden his senior year and flip things around. But I think he saw the success the system had, and he wanted to be a part of that. He bought in and got everybody else involved too.”
The offensive line coach and technique changed, but Joe Lowery obtained a similar accolade in both 2017 and 2018 — a place on the All-MAC team. Lowery blocked for one of the most prolific running attacks in college football, anchoring Ohio to finish ninth in rushing yards per game in 2018 — primarily behind triple option-based programs.
Lowery has been well-adapted to change on more than just his coaching staff. In-game adjustments have been the Bobcat alum’s forte and are a significant reason he succeeded as a starter as both a guard and tackle in college.
“He’s played for so long and seen so many different looks in the MAC,” Miller said. “That league is challenging because there is so much transient movement with coaches, so schemes change all the time, sometimes midyear. They gave you everything under the sun defensively so he was able to handle all of that.”
On the physical side, draft scouts are touting Lowery for his great frame, strength, and excellent footwork, and Lowery attributes his footwork to nothing more than the result of endless repetition over the years. What Lowery lacks in some physical aspects of the game, his cerebral, always-learning mindset can always provide a guaranteed boost.
“When you turn on the film and see some of the intricacies of his game, that’s probably his biggest strong suit,” Miller said. “He’s very, very intelligent. He could make adjustments in game. You could switch things up and he would not only be a leader out there, but he could really handle all those challenges and changes.”
One challenge Lowery had to adjust to was playing with complications from a sports hernia surgery in his junior year. A pinched nerve where the surgery occurred caused Lowery to battle a stabbing pain for 13 months, and he endured the pain because he didn’t want to miss an entire season. A pain-free 2018 year allowed the offensive tackle to take his game to new heights, and he landed on the All-MAC First Team for the first time in his career.
“He took his game to another level this last year, and that’s why he had so much success running the football,” Miller said. “He’s definitely an NFL caliber player. He will have an opportunity to show what he can do at the next level. I think he could play for a long time given the right fit and the right team.”
Lowery’s college career finished in triumph with a 27-0 shutout victory over San Diego State in the Frisco Bowl. Not too long after, his NFL career was planted into the ground. Twelve days after winning in Frisco, Lowery arrived in Denver on January 1 to begin three long months of workouts at Landow Performance. In the Mile High City, he worked tirelessly on conditioning and strength training with about 30 other NFL Draft prospects. Lacking an NFL Combine invite, his Pro Day performance on March 28 served as his primary “job interview” for the next level of football.
“I know how picky, how detailed this process is,” Lowery said. “It’s very exciting and very nerve-racking at the same time.”
The nerve-racking aspect of the draft process is the uncertainty of where Lowery will land in late April, or where he’ll sign as a free agent if not drafted. It’s a stacked class of tackles, and not receiving an NFL Combine invite leaves unresolved data on Lowery’s résumé.
“He does have good feet, he’s got decent strength, he has good length,” Miller said. “Different teams look for different things. Something he can continue to work on is flexibility in the lower half, being able to bend and sink his hips with his 6’6”-6’7” frame to get underneath guys. If he finds the right fit, he can certainly go higher. Just based on previous experience of guys I’ve worked with and coached before, that’s probably where I would see him.”
Lowery dabbled in several positions in his four years as a starter at Ohio, playing hundreds of snaps at guard before finishing college as a left tackle. No matter what position an NFL team demands of Lowery, it’s certain he’ll take the opportunity with an open mind to achieve that lifelong NFL dream.
“Whatever position it is, I’m going to be the best I can be.”