Dec. 29, 2009
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A parade of former Florida State players made their way to Jacksonville University for Tuesday’s Gator Bowl practice; many just hoping to share a moment with retiring Seminoles’ coach Bobby Bowden.
Former `Noles Todd Fordham and Sam Cowart, both of whom call Jacksonville home after lengthy NFL careers, talked about the importance of bringing their sons to meet their coach at practice or Friday’s Gator Bowl game against West Virginia.
“I just wanted to come and at least experience one more Florida State practice under his tutelage,” said Fordham, an offensive lineman for the `Noles from 1993-96. “To get to go to his last game, I told my (four) boys I was taking them to the game. `We’re going to the game somehow. This is coach’s last game and I want you to be a part of that.'”
“I’m going to bring my son out tomorrow to have the opportunity to meet Coach Bowden for the first time,” said Cowart, a Jacksonville native and FSU linebacker from 1993-97. “I tell a lot of people, just the experience of playing for Coach Bowden, Coach (Mickey) Andrews and Chuck Amato … if I had the opportunity to do it over again, knowing what I know now, I’d go right back to FSU.”
Martin Mayhew attended Tallahassee Florida High, but doesn’t get the chance to visit too often as general manager of the Detroit Lions. Mayhew was a standout cornerback – and outstanding student – for the Seminoles from 1984-87, which put him at the forefront of FSU’s dynasty years and later enjoyed an eight-year NFL career.
“I had the chance to spend a little time with Coach Bowden … to just thank him for being an inspiration to me,” said Mayhew. “I’ve been watching him from afar the past few years, but I have seen this program really take root during the time I was here and shortly thereafter, to become a great program. It’s tough to see him go, but I just have tremendous respect for him and everything he’s done from the school.”
Bowden keynote speaker at FCA breakfast
Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast, which was held at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville and included the entire FSU and West Virginia teams.
“I’m studying for my finals,” Bowden said, holding up his bible. “I’m not as young as you all. I don’t know when graduation is coming, but I’m trying to be ready.”
West Virginia coach Bill Stewart spoke, as well as several players who offered testimonials.
Bowden has a long-standing relationship with the FCA. The organization annually presents the Bobby Bowden Award to a college football player who excels on the field, in the classroom and serves as a “faith model” in the community.
Quotes from former and current Seminoles about Coach Bowden as well as preparing for Friday’s Gator Bowl against West Virginia:
Former FSU offensive lineman Todd Fordham:
“Part of it is sad. For me, when I think of Florida State football you just always thought about Coach Bowden. … One of the proudest things in my life is to be a part of a team that he coached. Also, you’re happy for him. When you look back on it he’s had 34 great years and to be a part of what he’s built is something to be proud of. There are sad parts and there are good parts.
“Just to come out here, be able to shake his hand and tell him thank you means a ton to me, because what he did for me and my family, I can never thank him enough. It’s something nobody can take away from me – being able to play football for Florida State.”
Former FSU linebacker Sam Cowart:
“It’s definitely going to be a hard pill to swallow. Coach Bowden has done so much for the city of Tallahassee, Florida football in general and Florida State University. I know you have to move on. I’ll still support FSU and still bleed garnet and gold, but in my mind Coach Bowden will always be my coach at FSU.”
Former FSU cornerback Martin Mayhew:
“It brings back a lot of memories, seeing Coach Bowden and Coach Andrews. Coach Andrews hasn’t changed a bit, his coaching style and the way he gets after guys, it’s just fun to watch.”
“That was a special time and he really put the program on the map. When you look at the other schools in the state of Florida that have had success, there have been different cycles of coaches who came through with different styles of play. What Coach Bowden did for that extended period of time really is just unparalleled. It’s just a tremendous honor to have played for him.”
Sophomore punter Shawn Powell:
On attitude of the team:
“The attitude has been good. Everybody is coming together for Coach Bowden knowing that we want to send him out on a good note. The offense is clicking even more and the defense is starting to come together. Basically, this bowl game for us is to send Coach Bowden out on a good note and we’re coming together for him and doing what we’re doing for him.”
On West Virginia special teams:
“They’re real fast. Their punter and their punt returners are really good. There are some things we’ve learned about them that we’re going to go out there and see if we can beat them at but of course, they’re real fast.”
“It’s going to take a solid all-around effort from everybody to beat West Virginia. Special teams have to do what they need to do. Defense has to stop the big play and offense, converting on third down and scoring touchdowns and running the right routes. We need an all-around `A’ game from everybody.”
Junior cornerback Ochuko Jenije:
“Practices have been fun. It’s been a little bit cold but we’ve had good energy. The best thing about bowl games is bonding with your teammates, especially with the seniors for their last game and let them get their last chuckles out before they have to move on. It’s definitely a good bonding experience.”
On West Virginia:
“They’re very fast, very fast. There’s big play potential on every single play from different positions. We’ve got to tackle, that’s the main thing, and do our assignment.”
On the importance of a win:
“It’s important for a lot of reasons. First, we obviously want to win and second, we want to send Coach Bowden, Coach Andrews and the seniors out on a good note. And we want to start out 2010 with a win.”