Bobby Bowden wins football game and heart at Florida State University

Looking at the pristine green grass of Doak Campbell Stadium, it looked very peaceful and sort of cathartic.

It was August 2004 and my mother Lucy passed away about a week ago. When I got the call, I was in Tallahassee preparing for Media Day and the first practice at Florida State University. I rushed home, helped my sister and brother prepare for the service, sent compliments, and came back. I was hoping the excitement of the start of the season would help heal.

Then I got a message saying that Bobby Bowden wanted to see me in his office.

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I mainly remember that day. When Bowden is seated behind a desk, which is an empty stadium to my right, I can still imagine facing Bowden. I remember the big screen where Bowden watches the tape. Football on the shelves. Trophy, Photos, Books, Military Collectibles – Behind his faith, family, and football, the next most important thing in Bowden’s life was his passion for military history, including WWII helmets . The carved wooden Seminole sits behind Bowden’s desk and features a statue of an American Indian on a horse, a gift from Burt Reynolds.

But what I remember most is the difference between our conversation and hundreds of other conversations with Borden. It was not about football. It wasn’t the kind of question I’ve always asked since I first met Bowden in 1982. It’s about life and the coach asked me about my mom. – Who was she? How was his life? How was his last day? – And see how I was.

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It was one of the few times that I had a very deep and personal conversation with someone that I covered in my 40 years in this business. But in retrospect, that doesn’t minimize the importance of many other wonderfully compassionate people who have learned that I work in this profession. This is the definition of Bobby Bowden, who died Sunday at the age of 91. In July, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Some of Bowden’s famous coaches of the era have been lost to modern coaches such as Steve Spurrier, Howard Schnellenberger, Tom Osborne, Laval Edwards and Frank Beamer.

Bobby Bowden was the closest person to his second father for most Florida players.

And Bowden was standing on each of them. Perhaps the most respected of his generation, he was certainly unique with his warm folk charm. No one did a good job of “daddy”. ..

Bowden was, in their eyes, the closest to his second father.

Bobby Bowden was nicer and more respectful than anyone I know. Bowden was unique, but not by others. Probably even the paradox. A man who has spent his life in an intense and relentless profession. The hardness can depend on how many times you play a broken game. He was as kind, gracious and tolerant as his peers (he sometimes made mistakes). The ardent Southern Baptist Convention, Bowden, has never confused its priorities.

However, Bowden is still a football coach, having won 389 games (377 recognized by the NCAA) in his 44-year-old coach, and two national titles and 12 ACC titles in 18 years. Don’t be fooled. Year in the league.

Bowden led a retired life as you might expect: modest, around family

Last summer I spoke to Borden before Boden was attacked by COVID-19. He rang the bell as usual, greeted me with “Hey, Buddy” and ended our conversation as we have done several times.

“Call me whenever you want. I always like to talk to you.

He then told me his golf day was over. He said he was “pulled” when he walked for a recent hip operation. He shared his daily routine – watching the news, walking in the pool, reading and responding to emails.

And recently when I took my wife Anne to the dentist, I was out of the house. They stopped at the drive-in on the way back.

It was the classic Bobby Bowden. I always answer the mail. Driving his wife to the dentist. Have a meal while driving. I live in the same modest house on the Killern Estates golf course that I bought in 1976.

And yes, it’s still in the phone book – if you’re under 40, google it – it’s under “Robert Cleckler Bowden”.

Think about it. Imagine taking a phone book in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and navigating to a blank page to find your name: Nicholas Lou Saban Jr.

And it was, of course, Bobby Bowden, who loved to send letters and handwritten pens on paper. Others typed by his longtime assistant, Sue Hall.

A letter to all. Family and friends. Colleagues or people looking for inspiration. Recruit… Especially recruit.

And a sports writer. Yes, a sports writer.

I don’t know how many files I received, but when I searched for the old files I found five, dating from 1983. Each theme was the same. Thanks for the recent article I sent to FSU, or Bowden emailed him from a friend, complimenting me on this article (I thanked him, but knew I wasn’t the only one ), and sometimes I added a personal touch.

There is one thing for sure. He may not have actually pressed the typewriter key, but those are his words. For these letters, there was no indication that they were single letters.

And the man was able to tell the story from the podium, from the training ground or every Sunday morning by meeting a member of the media who became known as “Breakfast with Bobby.” I was as good at storytelling as a football coach.

When Bowden and his family revealed he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, later confirmed by his son Terry to have pancreatic cancer, ACC was in the midst of that kick-off of the soccer.

People began to remember. Speaking of Borden’s favorite story, some wondered where ACC football was because Borden and FSU had not attended the reunion in 1992.

It is about a man who started his career as a major college coach with a portrait in Morgantown, West Virginia, and ended up with a larger statue in Tallahassee.

After a tragic 17-16 hurricane loss in 1991, a game known as Widelight I, once “they’re going to carve my gravestone …” but he played in Miami. The man who said. “It’s only 6 inches to turn that halo into a rope.”

Another thing Bowden once said was, “If I live this long, I will retire someday.”

Bowden has been a coach for 55 years and has lived a fulfilling life long enough to influence thousands of young men. The effect will last forever.

We will miss him. Dadgummit.

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