When Tyrekus "A.J." Bowman first heard the news, it shook him.
An All-American senior forward at Augusta State, Bowman has been contained by few opponents. On a September day, a cardiologist described a heart condition that stopped him cold.
"To be honest, all I could do is cry," he said. "I'm 21 years old and they're telling me I've got holes in my heart. I didn't know what to think. It was a sad day."
Six weeks after undergoing a procedure, Bowman is all smiles. At a Thursday news conference, Augusta State coach Dip Metress announced Bowman had been cleared to play for the sixth-ranked Jaguars.
"It's 42 shopping days to Christmas," Metress said, "and nobody's got to buy me a thing."
Bowman, who was cleared Tuesday, will rejoin the team for practice at 1 p.m. Saturday. He was given three days off for his body to adjust after being taking off one of two blood-thinners.
The team's leading scorer last season, Bowman will be back in the lineup when the Jaguars open at No. 18 Montevallo, on Nov. 16. Metress isn't sure if Bowman will start.
"He's going to impact the game somehow," Metress said.
Bowman's problems began Sept. 6 when he experienced shortness of breath during preseason drills. Metress said Bowman turned a shade of gray.
"I felt like I was about to kick the bucket," Bowman said.
Dr. Weems Pennington Jr. found two miniscule holes in the upper chamber of Bowman's heart during an echocardiogram, Dr. Weems Pennington III said. Dr. Christopher Neilsen, a surgeon at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, S.C., discovered another small hole during a 30-minute procedure to repair the heart. He inserted a device into one of Bowman's veins in his right leg. After the device -- two discs with a connection between them -- arrived at the heart, it clamped down to cover all the holes, which appeared to form one larger hole.
"Now that the hole is closed," the younger Pennington, Bowman's cardiologist, said, "I think he should get back to where he was."
After the procedure, Bowman was given two blood thinners, Plavix and aspirin. He was not allowed to have any contact for six weeks.
Bowman is no longer on Plavix, but he is on a daily regimen of one full dose aspirin for the next three months. After that, he will take a low dose aspirin once a day for the following year. He admits he's not back to normal yet.
"I'd be lying if I said I was 100 percent," he said. "Mentally, I'm ready to go. That's going to be my main hurdle."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.