Patrick Finley: From frozen tundra to Tucson City Court

2013-01-31T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:33:44Z Patrick Finley: From frozen tundra to Tucson City CourtPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 31, 2013 12:00 am  • 

He wears one of his two rings around town, and rarely gets noticed.

"I get stopped more," he said, "at arraignments."

The defendants notice, and ask the judge about it.

A robed Ken Bowman tells them that, yes, he was the center on the Green Bay Packers teams that won Super Bowls I and II, in 1967 and 1968.

And he was one tough dude. He played most of his 10-year NFL career with his left arm chained to his body, to prevent his shoulder from dislocating over and over again.

His block in one of the great games ever played, the 1967 "Ice Bowl" divisional title contest between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, paved the way for Bart Starr's 1-yard touchdown sneak in the game's final seconds.

And he still talks, with a smirk, about the time the great Dick Butkus, in words not suitable for a family newspaper, told him he was going to kick his butt.

"I said, 'You might, Dick, but we're going to be here for a while,'" he said.

Now 70, the Oro Valley resident wears the Super Bowl I ring to Tucson City Court, where, in semi-retirement, he serves as a special magistrate.

His law degree came the hard way, like that Johnny Cash song where he steals parts from his factory over decades to assemble a car.

Bowman's first contract in Green Bay paid $12,000 a year - about one-and-a-half times what a factory worker made at the time.

Bowman did the math: Even if he were lucky enough to play 10 years in the NFL, long beyond the average, he'd enter the workplace at 32 or 33 with no real-world skills.

So, while he played, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Bowman began a seven-year quest for his law degree.

He spent the first three springs in law school at the University of Wisconsin, where he'd been a star on the 1963 Rose Bowl team.

Because he was busy playing for the Packers in the fall, he took Contracts II before Contracts I and Torts II before Torts I.

"I knew how to sue for breach of contract before I knew what a contract was," he said, laughing.

His next two spring semesters were spent at DePaul, and then one at Northwestern - no one on either campus knew his day job - before he took his final 30 hours back at Wisconsin.

He graduated cum laude while he was still playing.

In 1972, he used his law degree as a player representative on the players' union executive committee.

His involvement in labor issues might have hastened his exit from the league after 123 games. Bowman played one year for the Honolulu Hawaiians in 1975 before the World Football League folded. He returned to Green Bay to start a general law practice.

Bowman and his wife, Rosann, moved to the desert in 1994, where he began a 10-year career with the public defender's office.

A year after he retired, he was appointed a special magistrate, a sort of substitute teacher for when judges are busy or on vacation.

"My dad once told me if you like what you're doing, you won't work a day in your life," he said. "It's a lot of fun."

A 1981 inductee into the Packers Hall of Fame - where they still hold the harness that held his balky shoulder - Bowman is often asked about Vince Lombardi, who for some reason called Bowman "Sam," rather than Ken.

"I sensed a lot of hostility," he said of the coach. "When he died, a lot of the guys said, 'I loved him like a father.'

"I used to tell my wife, he's not like my father.

"But he knew how to drive you to a point where he'd get every ounce out of you that you had to give.

"He was a good psychologist. He'd get the most out of every one of his players."

In an age where the physical cost of a football career is questioned almost daily, Bowman says he suffers no aftereffects.

"I'm lucky," he said.

Bowman, who has 14 grandkids between his and his wife's families, would like to know more about what to watch for - warning signs that, best he can tell, haven't showed up yet.

And he wonders, too, whether the game is getting too soft.

"They have to understand that the game by its nature is a violent game," he said, "and that people are going to get hurt."

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