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Bowman's hard work has led him to the top of the 49ers defense

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NaVorro Bowman was drafted in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft under Mike Singletary as head coach. When Singletary and his staff were dismissed following the 2010 season, Vic Fangio became the defensive coordinator after Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach.

While Bowman was an inherited player from a previous regime, that didn't stop him from wanting to become great. No one was guaranteed a spot on the 2011 49ers roster with the exception of two players, according to Bowman.

"[Fangio] didn't know who I was or what I could do," Bowman said. "With me being the player I am, I expect to be known [from] what I do. When he got here, the only [people] who had spots [guaranteed on the roster were] [Patrick] Willis and "Cowboy" [Justin Smith]."

Bowman has become one of the best linebackers in the National Football League today. He was labeled as 37th on the NFL Network's Top 100 players list after the 2012 season and it wouldn't be surprising if he moves up the rankings.

One of the biggest positives was how then-incumbent inside linebacker Takeo Spikes signed with the San Diego Chargers in free agency after the 2010 season, according to Vic Fangio. The competition for the second ILB spot was wide open and unknown at the time.

"There was kind of an assumption that Takeo Spikes was going to come back here," Fangio said. "NaVorro probably would have been in the same roll. In retrospect, it’s a good thing that Takeo didn’t come back here because he would have been beaten out by NaVorro.”

Spikes, 37, was the starting ILB alongside Patrick Willis for three seasons from 2008-2010. After spending two seasons with San Diego, the veteran linebacker is currently a free agent after not signing with a team for the 2013 season.

Bowman said it was intimidating at first when only Justin Smith and Willis were guaranteed on the roster. However, it motivated him to continue learning about the game from the veterans to be what he is today.

"I took [fighting for a roster spot] as a challenge and kept working to understand Vic. [Today,] I understand him pretty well. When leading up to games and putting [my efforts] into it as a player, it's made me better."

The fourth-year linebacker has the second longest contract on the 49ers as he signed an extension last season. He is under contract through the 2018 NFL season.

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