Faith, family and football.
These are the pillars to which Bobby Bowden has lived his life by. It’s a staple of the man born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1929.
And in 2021, his legacy is still felt in the thousands of lives that he made an impact on the field, and off.
With the news breaking yesterday that Bowden, 91, had come down with a terminal disease, many have offered their thoughts and prayers to the 2nd winningest coach in college football history (377 wins). And rightfully so, for a man who dedicated his entire life to his faith. It was at the forefront of a statement that he released yesterday.
“I’ve 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. “My wife Ann and our family have been life’s greatest blessing. I am at peace.”
As Frank Sinatra once said, “I’ve lived a life that’s full. I traveled each and every highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”
Bowden did it his way.
Along with his faith, it led him from West Virginia to Florida State in 1976, to a football program that was in danger of shutting down. To Tallahassee, to a program that was coming off a 4-29 record over its previous three seasons.
In just his second season at the helm in 1977, Bowden led the Seminoles to a 10-2 record, signaling that garnet and gold was here to stay, and stay it did. That sprung on what was perhaps the greatest run of any college football program.
33 consecutive winning seasons. Two National Championships in five appearances. A record 14 straight seasons of finishing in the top five of the AP poll spanning from 1987-2000. A coaching resume rivaling only Joe Paterno and Nick Saban as the G.O.A.T.
Simply put, Bowden knew how to win and get the best out of every player on the roster. The list of players who shined at FSU under his tutelage is long, and the names are some that college football fans will always remember.
Names like Ron Simmons, Deion “Prime Time” Sanders, Charlie Ward, Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Peter Warrick and Chris Weinke headline that group, and show that the best of the best wanted to play for Bowden. Wanted to win championships under Bowden. And wanted to grow as a young men under Bowden.
We see that today in former Bowden players such as Brooks and Dunn to name a couple. Fantastic players who are known for their contributions off the field, as well as on.
And for evidence of how much Bowden meant to those he coached, look no further than the tweets that overflowed in response to Bowden’s diagnosis.
A one of a kind coach, and a one of a kind person. A father figure to his players and an inspiration to everyone that ever watched him coach. That will be the legacy of Bowden when he is called home to his rightful place in Heaven.
And we’ll always remember the epic duels with Florida and Miami, the banter with Steve Spurrier and of course, the tactical glasses.
Thank you, coach Bowden. We will never forget you.
Coach Bowden gets lifted up by his players during his last game as head coach of FSU during the 2010 Gator Bowl on New Years Day. The Seminoles defeated West Virginia 33-21 to finish the season 7-6.