NaVorro Bowman announced his retirement as a member of the 49ers on Tuesday after a stellar seven-season career that included four first-team All-Pro selections.
The 49ers chose Bowman in the third round of the 2010 draft, and it took the team a full season to move him into the starting lineup.
From the moment he entered the starting lineup in 2011, Bowman established himself as one of the game’s top stars until a horrific knee injury and a torn Achilles sidetracked his career.
GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan released Bowman after five games in 2017 following his request for a trade due to a reduced role in the team’s defense. He finished his career with a 10-game stint that season with the Raiders.
Bowman, 31, attended practice in Santa Clara on Tuesday, making it known he wished to retire as a member of the organization that saw him experience his greatest successes.
Here is a look back at Bowman’s top-five moments with the 49ers:
Pick-six to close the ‘Stick
The play that stands out from Bowman’s career features incredible instincts, timing, athleticism and flair.
The farewell to Candlestick Park came on Dec. 23, 2013, a Monday night game against the Atlanta Falcons. The end zones were painted red to signal the significance of this game.
The 49ers needed a victory to clinch a playoff spot. And the Falcons appeared poised to spoil everything. With the 49ers leading 27-24, Matt Ryan marched his team down the field to the 49ers’ 10-yard line in their bid to take the late-game lead.
“The 49ers are shocked,” exclaimed then-ESPN TV analyst Jon Gruden.
Then, Bowman did the shocking.
A number of teammates contributed to Bowman’s shining moment. Eric Reid brought pressure up the middle to hit Ryan as he was throwing. Tramaine Brock made an outstanding play to break on the route and fight to get the ball away from receiver Harry Douglas.
Bowman was picked up on a blitz up the middle. But when the ball came out quickly, Bowman reversed direction, covered a significant amount of ground and was able to grab the ball out of the air from the Brock-Douglas stalemate.
Bowman returned it 89 yards for a touchdown – punctuated by his leap and backflop into the end zone.
“What makes him think in his instincts he could go get in on that play when it’s 10 or 15 yards away?” Jim Harbaugh said afterward. “His training, his instincts, just make him go.”
PBU to Super Bowl
Two years earlier, the 49ers were also clinging to a late lead against the Falcons. This time, it was in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome. The 49ers led 28-24 with one minute remaining.
On a fourth-and-4 play from the 49ers’ 10-yard line, Bowman was matched up against wide receiver Roddy White who lined up just outside right tackle. White ran at Bowman. The two made contact. Ryan’s pass was a little behind White, and Bowman batted the ball away with his left hand. Ryan picked the wrong player to challenge on the game's most critical play.
The Falcons wanted pass interference. The officials did not agree. It was a PBU for Bowman, a pass broken up. And the 49ers secured the trip to Super Bowl XLVII.
Bowman breaks out
He spent his rookie season as a backup to Takeo Spikes and Patrick Willis, as well as being a core special-teams player. When the 49ers did not bring back Spikes in 2011, Bowman stepped seamlessly into the starting job.
Bowman and Willis immediately became one the best duo of inside linebackers in the league. Early in the 2011 season, coaches admitted they had to repeatedly rewind the video to identify whether it was No. 52 or 53 making the tackles.
That first season together, Bowman recorded 143 tackles, compared to Willis’ 97. Bowman was snubbed from the NFL Pro Bowl team in the voting among players, coaches and fans.
But the moment that showed the ultimate form of respect came when the AP media panel named Bowman as one of three first-team All-Pro linebackers. Bowman as he joined Willis and Kansas City’s Derrick Johnson as being recognized as the best inside linebackers in the entire NFL.
Setting the tone
Bowman erased any doubt of being a one-hit wonder in the season opener of 2012 against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
In the middle of the fourth quarter with the 49ers protecting an eight-point lead, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were within striking range. Rodgers was coming off a season in which he threw 45 touchdown passes and just six interceptions.
But Bowman deflated the crowd at Lambeau Field when he baited Rodgers into a rare interception. Bowman came up on the line of scrimmage as if to blitz, then dropped into coverage to pick off Rodgers’ pass intended for Greg Jennings.
Bowman, who also had 11 tackles on the day, returned the interception 11 yards. On the next play, Frank Gore put the game away with a 23-yard touchdown run.
The 49ers would go on to defeat Green Bay in the divisional round of the playoffs en route to winning the NFC title.
[RELATED: Bowman left lasting impressions on ex-49ers teammates]
Bowman and the defense led the 49ers to three consecutive trips to the NFC Championship game. In January 2014, the 49ers and Seahawks had an epic battle in Seattle for the right to move onto the Super Bowl.
In the middle of the fourth quarter, Bowman made a fantastic play while sustaining a grisly left knee injury. He ripped the ball away from Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse at the 1-yard line. (Inexplicably, the ball was awarded back to the Seahawks despite Bowman gaining clear control of the ball and being on the ground with secure possession.)
The knee injury sidelined Bowman for the entire 2014 season. He finally made it back in the 2015 preseason. Bowman appeared in three snaps in his first exhibition game and, of course, he recorded three tackles against the Dallas Cowboys.
His regular-season return came on Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings, and Bowman recorded seven tackles and a sack in the 49ers’ 20-3 victory.
“I felt great man, just throughout the whole game, confident, just worried about the game plan, not the knee,” Bowman said afterward.
Bowman led the NFL with 154 tackles and was named first-team All-Pro for the fourth time and final time in his career.