The Clemson defensive end and Bamberg, S.C., native was once projected as a top-five pick, but a knee injury appeared to scare teams off, though.
Bowers had a small meniscus tear in his knee in October, but he waited until the end of the season to have surgery.
He had to wait out all of first round on Thursday and 18 picks on Friday before finally being taken at No. 51 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"The last 24 hours have been crazy long," said Bowers, who assured the Buccaneers his knee was fine. "It's been grueling just waiting for that one phone call. I didn't expect the wait to be this long. I was expecting to go off the board in the first round."
Bowers certainly had the numbers to deserve his earlier projection. At 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, he led the nation with 151/2 sacks.
That year came after a difficult off-season for Bowers, who lost his father, Dennis, in August during Clemson's summer camp. In January 2010, Bowers' mentor, former Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams, died suddenly.
Bowers used the deaths as inspiration this season. His sack total broke Adams' mark for Tigers defensive linemen.
Bowers won the Nagurski Award as the top defensive player and the Ted Hendricks Award as the country's top defensive end.
Two of Bowers' Clemson teammates were also drafted in the second round.
Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins was taken No. 41 overall by the Washington Redskins. while defensive back Marcus Gilchrist went to the San Diego Chargers with the 50th pick.
Georgia had two players chosen in the third round.
Justin Houston, a former defensive end who became a standout pass rusher as an outside linebacker in the Bulldogs' 3-4 defense, was taken with the 70th pick by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Fellow Georgia linebacker Akeem Dent went to the Atlanta Falcons with the 91st pick.
South Carolina defensive back Chris Culliver was selected by the San Francisco 49ers.
The Jacksonville Jaguars received San Francisco's 76th overall pick in exchange for the 80th pick to take Culliver and a sixth-round selection (182nd overall).
A day after selecting Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, the Cincinnati Bengals took Texas Christian University quarterback Andy Dalton in the second reound with 35th overall pick.
One pick later, the 49ers took Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, projected by some to go in the opening round, instead was chosen 10th in the third round and 74th overall by New England, where he can serve an apprenticeship under Tom Brady.