A beating by police ended Orlando Bowen’s Canadian Football League career, but the incident led him to spread an inspirational message of forgiveness.
Bowen’s story and his work as founder of the One Voice One Team Youth Leadership Organization will be featured as a documentary at 7 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 18, on CTV W5 in Canada and at a later date on The Sports Network there.
Bowen (’98, M.S. ’99) played as an NIU linebacker and defensive end and made the CFL as a linebacker for the Toronto Argonauts (three seasons) and for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (one season).
In the documentary, Bowen talks about his arrest in 2004, when he says two Canadian police officers beat him up and planted drugs on him during the arrest. He fought back by filing a lawsuit against the police force, and he was acquitted in 2005 after one of the officers was arrested for cocaine trafficking.
After the incident, he found purpose by establishing One Voice One Team to help Canadian youth overcome adversity.
“I started the One Voice One Team Youth Leadership Organization because I saw youth who had incredible potential giving up on themselves and on life because they’d lost hope,” Bowen said. “The reality is that I saw myself in them.”
The organization allows youth to get inspired and use their gifts and talent to provide service to others in their communities.
“Some of the youth we’ve worked with have suffered from poverty, homelessness and physical/sexual abuse and come from all types of neighborhoods,” Bowen said. “The unifying factor for many of them is that they felt that their circumstances would ultimately determine their possibilities and their destiny. We help them shatter that type of thinking and help them realize that they have so much to offer their communities and this planet. And it starts with one step at a time and one decision at a time.”
Besides working with the youth organization, Bowen speaks to corporations and schools to inspire professionals, teachers and students to identify their passions, reach their goals and build resilience to make a difference.
He credits coaches, teammates and family for giving him the right perspective to be successful.
“I’ve learned so many life lessons as a Huskie in terms of commitment, selflessness, teamwork, sacrifice and passion that I felt that it would be a shame not to pass some of these lessons on to others who have a desire to be excellent,” Bowen said.
By Colleen Leonard