LaVar Arrington watches most Penn State games and keeps a keen eye on the linebackers.
He sees No. 18, and he sees shades of his former college All-American, NFL all-pro self.
"People talk about all these other linebackers, those linebackers at USC or the linebackers at Ohio State," Arrington said. "Navorro Bowman is probably the most underrated linebacker because nobody talks about him. He's still moving under the radar. Before it's all said and done, Navorro will be the best linebacker in college football."
Arrington, who speaks to Bowman daily, urged Bowman to switch to No. 11 before this season, but the number is occupied by senior cornerback Tony Davis.
Matching Arrington's number may have to wait until next season.
Arrington sees enough other parallels.
"In terms of somebody I look at, I sit and watch them and look for watching signs of things I would do. He's the first one I see that has the athletic ability I felt I had when I was in college," Arrington said.
Neither player started until their redshirt sophomore season as Arrington sat behind Aaron Gatten and Bowman waited for graduations to open a spot.
Arrington's impact was immediate: He was the Big Ten defensive MVP.
Bowman's impact has also been immediate. He has a team-best 60 tackles, 23 more than any other player. His 8.5 tackles for loss are second, he has three sacks and one interception.
"We have very similar parallels in our paths to greatness," Arrington said.
Arrington caught wind of Bowman, a Maryland high school standout, when Arrington played for the Washington Redskins. He also speaks to Aaron Maybin -- he said he saw Maybin "before he had muscles" -- and Derrick Williams, whom Arrington dubbed "Jesus Shuttlesworth" after the character in "He Got Game," a movie directed by Spike Lee.
Arrington will be on the sidelines for Saturday's game against Michigan, and he'll avoid picking
See Arrington, Page 14.
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sides by wearing a "DMV's finest" T-shirt with Nos. 2, 18 and 59 on the back.
The 'D' represents the Washington, D.C., area, the 'M' represents Maryland and the 'V' represents Virginia.
"I love them all very much," Arrington said. "I got a little T-shirt made for them. I'll be rocking that on the sidelines for all of them."
His bond with Bowman, because of the shared commonalities, is unlike the other positions.
"Everybody I believe that plays the game or does anything that they love have someone there to help them," Bowman said. "He's just another guy there to help me out."
The help comes from sharp critiques of Bowman's play.
Arrington wouldn't disclose what the two talk about, but he said the criticism is biting, largely because Arrington considers Bowman the most athletic linebacker he's seen at Penn State since his college days.
"He watches every game, and there's not too much positive coming from him," Bowman said. "I think that's how you really develop to be a great player, to learn what you did negatively or what you can do better in."
There's one additional comparison.
Because of the shared talents and similar nickname, Bowman has been called "LaVorro" as a twist on his first name and the first name of the former Penn State great.
Arrington didn't hear the nickname until Sunday afternoon.
"That's pretty sweet," Arrington said. "It wouldn't be fitting if he had a different name and he played like me. He couldn't be like a Michael or John or something like that. It has to be something like Navorro."