Football stadium lights shine across Tri-State and Indiana in honor of a coach and his heroic last act

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EVANSVILLE, In. (WEHT) — Shining a light on a man many knew as “coach” and his heroic last act.

Phillip Bowsman, the longtime coach at West Washington High School in southern Indiana died this week after suffering a stroke.

Coaching football is what Bowsman loved. He loved it so much he did it for 20 years.

He watched as many young men grew up on his football field, and this week many of those men watched as their hero became a hero to so many others.

The Friday night lights this Friday night have a different meaning.

The stands at Enlow Field and North High School are empty, no players are on the field.

They’re shining, along with others all across the state of Indiana, in honor of Coach Bowsman and his dedication to helping others.

“We crossed paths frequently, at least three times a year,” said Memorial High School football coach John Hurley.

Coach Hurley and Coach Bowsman started coaching around the same time and were both part of the Indiana Coach’s Association.

Hurley says Bowsman was a standout coach and very well liked by players and coaches.

“Football is a little bit different,” said Coach Hurley. “It’s always been and I always say, it’s the true team sport. It’s hard to have a one man show in football. It’s a pretty strong fraternity of coaches and teams throughout the state.”

It’s a bond so great that many who played under Bowsman drove over two hours to honor the man many called “Dad” and his last great act of helping others.

They gathered in the hall of St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, as Coach Bowsman, an organ donor, was led on what’s known as an “honor walk.”

The players, many wearing their jerseys, stood side-by-side with Bowsman’s family and friends as the school’s superintendent prayed for their coach and the eight lives his organs are expected to save.

“Coach Bowsman is my closest friend,” said West Washington Superintendent Keith Nance. “It’s difficult but I know what he’d want me to do and that would be to lead these kids through this difficult time.”

This Friday night, it was coach Bowsman and his selfless act that was in the spotlight, in the Tri-state and beyond.

Coach Bowsman was a husband and father of two.

His friends say his decision to be an organ donor and help save lives didn’t surprise them one bit.

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(This story was originally published on Nov. 29, 2019)

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