One of the best is laid to rest

-Photo courtesy of Bobby Bowden

One of the best is laid to rest
August 18
13:44 2021

Legendary college football coach Bobby Bowden passed away last week at the age of 91 after battling pancreatic cancer. Bowden is best known for his time as the head football coach for Florida State University, but his impact on the game, his players, and his fans will last a lifetime.

Bowden was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on Nov. 8, 1929. Bowden himself was an outstanding football player in high school at the quarterback position. He always had a dream of playing for the Crimson Tide of Alabama and after graduation he fulfilled his dream. He transferred to Howard College (now Samford University) where he played multiple sports and graduated in 1953.

Bowden began his coaching career at Samford as an assistant in 1954. He moved on to South Georgia State College before returning to Samford as the head coach from 1959-62. Bowden then made his first stint in Tallahassee as the wide receiver coach under Head Coach Bill Peterson in 1962.  

A few years later Bowden made his way to West Virginia as the offensive coordinator and then head coach before finally landing the head coaching position for the Seminoles in 1976, a job he would hold until he retired in 2009.

Bowden quickly turned the Seminoles from a laughingstock to one of the more formidable teams in the nation rather quickly. During his 34-year stint as head coach, he only had one losing season, which was his first. Of course, he was offered head coaching positions at other top universities, but chose to stay with Florida State.

While he did enjoy early success at Florida State, Bowden and the Seminoles really became a national power in the second half of the 1980s. From 1987-2000, Florida State finished every season with at least 10 wins and ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll. That is a stretch of excellence that will probably never be duplicated again.

Under his tenure, two Seminoles won the Heisman Trophy (Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke). Bowden also finished his career second in all-time wins behind Joe Paterno. Bowden also established one of the most celebrated coaching trees in college football history. Some of the coaches that came out of that tree are Mark Richt, Chuck Amato, Skip Holtz, Kirby Smart, Mickey Andrews, Jimbo Fisher and Manny Diaz.  

During his tenure, Bowden led Florida State to the AP National Title in 1993 with a win against Nebraska and a BCS National Championship in 1999 in a win against Virginia Tech. Both teams were two of the greatest teams to ever play, with many players going on to play in the NFL.

Florida State also dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) after joining in 1992. The Seminoles won or shared nine consecutive conference titles from ’92 through 2000. They only lost two conference games in that time. Bowden finished his FSU career with a 304-97-4 record.

I remember as a young child becoming a Florida State football fan in 1992. I had recently relocated from Washington, D.C. with my family to St. Petersburg, Florida, and I was not happy about it. I was only 11 years old and the first game I was able to watch was a Florida State game.  

I was drawn to the team because they had a Black quarterback (Charlie Ward) that wore Number 17. It seemed like fate because I was a Washington Redskins’ fan and Doug Williams had just won the Super Bowl a few years earlier as the first Black quarterback to do so. As I continued to watch the Seminoles, I became an even bigger fan.

At that time, Bowden had a television show that used to air on the weekends. As a kid it was kind of cool to see a coach of one of the top programs in the country appear so personable on TV. It also seemed that he had a genuine love for the kids in his program beyond what they did on the field.

It was well known that Bowden was one of, if not the best, recruiter in college football during the Seminoles heyday.  Coaches knew once Bowden visited a player’s family, it was pretty much a done deal, as he would win them over with his Southern charm and love of family.

“Ive always tried to serve God’s purpose for my life, on and off the field, and I am prepared for what is to come,” Bowden said in a statement in July. “My wife Ann and our family have been life’s greatest blessing. I am at peace.”

You can tell by responses of Bowden’s former players and assistants that he was more than just a coach to them. Derrick Brooks, former linebacker and All-American, wrote on Twitter, “I thank God for my relationship with Coach Bowden! I am so grateful to play for Coach Bowden. He built into our spirits “Faith, Family, Football” in that order! I will miss him and I hope to honor his legacy with how I live my life.  RIP Coach B!”

Ward wrote on Twitter, “Today as we mourn the passing of Coach Bobby Bowden, I reflect on his amazing legacy not just as a coach, but as a man, a mentor and an incredible person of faith. Please join me in keeping his family in prayer during this difficult time.”

Those were just two of the many condolences sent out about Bowden. He was a person that was not only respected by those around him, but also by his opponents. Florida State has not been the same since his departure and the school will never be the same without him. Bowden influenced many of the coaches who are in college football today. 

We need more coaches like Bowden who care more about his players than his win/loss record. RIP Coach Bowden.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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