In the first #LifeMatters podcast, host Tony Chapman talks with former CFL player Orlando Bowen about the harrowing experience that ended his career and almost his life. Hear how Orlando chose to rise above the experience and use it to motivate others.
Life Matters, hosted by Tony Chapman, is a special 6-part series presented by RBC. In the show, Tony speaks with people who have faced overwhelming challenges, pivoting to turn them into opportunities. These real stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things will leave listeners inspired, and equipped with lessons that can be applied in their own lives.
Orlando Bowen is a former CFL player, community advocate and inspirational speaker. In 2004, after his fourth season as a professional athlete, two undercover police officers approached him in a parking lot, accused him of dealing drugs, and delivered a beating that led to a severe, career-ending concussion. As Tony Chapman reveals in this inspiring episode: “His football career was over, but his story had just begun.”
Bowen’s background is a humble one. He immigrated to Canada at age three and settled in Toronto with his parents, uncle and grand parents. They didn’t have a lot in the way of material possessions, but they had plenty of love and encouragement to go around.
Along with a love of football, strength of character, and a drive to give back were instilled in Bowen throughout his youth. So when he was being scouted by the Toronto Argonauts, his only question to coach Pinball Clemons was: “If I take this, will I be able to serve in the community? Will I be able to give back?”
In 2004, Bowen had just signed a contract extension with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. While waiting for friends in a carpool lot before going downtown to celebrate, he was approached by two under cover police officers. At the hands of these corrupt cops, the beating he suffered caused a career-ending concussion and almost cost him his life. He was falsely charged with drug possession and assault, and stood facing an uncertain future.
Bowen believes one of the reasons his life didn’t end was because it has a bigger purpose. And he takes responsibility to tell everyone he meets that their lives have a purpose too.
Turning Challenge Into Opportunity
Today, Bowen runs a youth leadership charity called One Voice One Team, which aims to empower and equip young people to see beyond their circumstances and show them they’re not alone on life’s journey. “Things that may challenge them and seem insurmountable may be one of life’s gifts they can use to connect with others on a deeper level, and use their experiences to bring hope and possibility to others,” he explains.
He also takes his message to corporations, schools, non-profits and even prisons. He’s had everyone from young people to maximum-security inmates to seasoned corporate veterans thank him for conveying a message that has shifted their perspective and changed their life.
The Power of Forgiveness
As Bowen puts it, challenges are a part of life. It’s what you do with them that shape your future. While many people may have followed a path of revenge and bitterness following such an ordeal, Bowen chose instead a path of forgiveness.
In an act that came about because of a marketing assignment, Bowen wrote a letter of forgiveness to the officers who assaulted him. In it, he wrote:
“I want to courageously express the fact that I’m thankful, grateful and forever in debt to you for this experience because it forever changed my life. It’s made me a better father and husband.”
He explains that forgiveness is not condoning an action, rather it allows you to release yourself from the past so you can focus on the future. “I can be present and engaged in the gifts in front of me – fatherhood, being a husband, being able to serve in the community or equipping young people,” he says. “I wouldn’t be able to engage and fully appreciate those things if I held on to the hurt and the trauma.”
“Forgiveness is a choice,” he adds. “It’s a high performance tool.”
For other stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, listen to the #LifeMatters Radio Show Friday’s at Noon on I Heart Radio and these stations:
- Newstalk 1010, Toronto,
- CFRA 580 Ottawa,
- CJAD 800 Montreal,
- CJBK 1290 London,
- Newstalk 610 St, Catharine’s,
- CKLW 800 Windsor,
- CKFR 1150 Kelowna,
- Fridays at 1pm.
- CFAX 1070 AM Victoria,
- Fridays at 8pm.
- BNN Bloomberg, CFTE 1410 Vancouver
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