Oct. 1, 2008
He keeps a black sharpie in his pocket at all times ready to give an autograph to an adoring fan.
He still throws his hat up into the cheering crowd as he is leaving the field after a Seminole victory.
While many coaches these days try to dodge fans, Bobby Bowden doesn’t. He never has and he never
will. That’s just who he is.
“I carry a sharpie with me to sign autographs,” Bowden said. “I don’t mind it at all but I have
ruined some of my suits. Somebody will hand me something and the next thing I know, I have stripes
all up and down my suit.”
Although he coached his 500th career game against Colorado and in his 43rd season as a head coach at
the collegiate level, Bowden still has the enthusiasm of a first-year coach. He just doesn’t get caught
up in the fact that he is major college football’s second-winningest coach or that against Colorado he became just the third coach in major college football history to ever coach 500 games in his career.
“Football is a game where you can’t look back, you’ve got to look ahead,” Bowden said. “I’m still coaching and I’m still concerned
about the next team and I still know that I
could lose and that keeps you from looking
back at anything you’ve already done.
“I continue to coach because I love working
with the boys and I love the challenge of trying
to win, trying to build a team. I think it renews
you every year because every year when
you start off, you’re undefeated. If the season
never ended and just went continuous, then it
would get kind of boring but every year you’re
undefeated and have a chance to have another
great year and that keeps you enthused.”
Bowden’s path to college football greatness began in a challenging way but is a truly wonderful
example of turning a negative into a positive. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Bowden spent
a portion of his childhood in bed, sick because when he was 13 years old, he was diagnosed with
rheumatic fever. After a six month hospital stay, Bowden was confined to his bed at home for just
over a year with nothing more than his imagination to pass the time. It was listening to World War
II reports on the radio that began Bowden’s interest in the war, an interest he still has to this day.
It was also around this time that his love for football increased, as he would listen to University of
Alabama football on Saturday mornings.
But perhaps more important than his growing fascination in history and football was what Bowden
learned about the appreciation for life. Because of this experience, Bowden had his priorities in order
at a very young age, which is a direct correlation to his longevity in college football.
“At a young age, I realized how important health was,” Bowden said, “because I was always
active in football, baseball, basketball. Then all of the sudden, I couldn’t play. I couldn’t even go to
school. So I learned the importance of good health very early.”
Bowden’s list of coaching accomplishments is truly remarkable but the admiration and respect people,
especially his players, have for him goes well beyond the wins, the losses and the numerous accolades.
“What Coach Bowden has meant to me has been more than just a coach,” former Seminole Terrell
Buckley said. “He’s been kind of like a father figure in the sense of consistency with some humility
along the way and it shows that life creates ups and downs but it still doesn’t have to change your
character as a person, as a man and as a Christian.
“It’s amazing that Coach Bowden is coaching his 500th game but what it shows is that he has
always had life outside of football, outside of his job and that he obviously hasn’t gotten burnt out. All
coaches need to ask him to look at the blue print because he has it on how to maintain and continue
to have success in a business as volatile as head coaching is.”
Bowden attributes much of
his success to his coaching staff
and players over the years but his
ability to keep things in perspective
as also contributed to what
he’s been able to accomplish.
“I’ve just always tried to keep
my priorities in order and that’s
God, family and then football,”
Bowden said. “As people grow
older, they still want to do things
and the mind says yes but the body says
`no, you can’t do it’ and that’s how it is with
coaches. You might still want to coach but
your body just won’t do it and I’ve always said
that the day I lose my health, then it’s all over.
My body still says yes, it still say’s go.”
Induction into the College Football Hall of
Fame December 5, 2006. In a rare, yet remarkable
gesture, he and Penn State’s Joe Paterno
were inducted while still actively coaching.
The previous rule was that a person must be
retired before they can be elected in, but the
rule was changed. Instead of requiring a person
be retired, the National Football Foundation
decided to make any active coach over 75
eligible for induction. Both Bowden and Paterno
also received an even greater honor when
they were presented with the organization’s
very highest distinction, the Gold Medal, joining
the likes of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F.
Kennedy and H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
14 straight top five finishes in the AP poll
from 1987-2000. During that run FSU was
152-18-1 and captured national championships
in 1993 and 1999. In 1999 the Seminoles became
the first squad to ever go wire-to-wire as the No.
1 team in the AP poll. FSU also played for the
title three other times during that span and since
1993 no team in the FBS has played for more national
titles than FSU.
Bowden has won 12 ACC Championships since
FSU joined the conference in 1992. No other
school in any BCS conference has won as many
conference titles since 1992 as Bowden’s Seminoles.
Included among those 12 conference titles
is the inaugural ACC Championship Game victory
in 2005. Over the past 16 years since Florida
State joined the Atlantic Coast Conference, FSU
is 108-21. The Seminoles won 100 games faster
than any team in conference history and also set
the league record for consecutive victories.
Under Bowden’s guidance, FSU has not only
produced great teams but great players as well.
Two Seminoles, Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke,
have won the Heisman Trophy, 24 of his players
have been named consensus All-Americans,
three of his QB’s have won the Johnny Unitas
Award and two have won the Thorpe Award, the
Butkus Award, the Davey O’Brien Award and the
Known for the man and not just the coach, the
Fellowship of Christian Athletes honored Bowden
in 2004 when they presented the first of what is
now a yearly award in Bowden’s name, The National
Bobby Bowden Award, honoring one collegefootball
player for his achievements on the
field, in the classroom and in the community. The
award is presented each year prior to the Bowl
Championship Series’ national title game.
In November 2004, by an act of the 2000 session
of the Legislature of the State of Florida,
Florida State renamed the field at Doak Campbell
Stadium as Bobby Bowden Field at Doak
Campbell Stadium, erected a bronze statue of
his likeness, and unveiled a three story stainedglass
window in his honor. Bobby Bowden Field
was officially dedicated on November 20, 2004
before the annual game with arch rival the University
October 24, 197 Morgantown, WV
West Virginia 10, Virginia Tech 7
In Coach Bowden’s last season as the head
coach, the 1975 West Virginia Mountaineers
football team completed the regular season
with an 8-3 record. They won the peach bowl
game against NC State, to finish 9-3. They finished
with a ranking of 17/20.
September 15, 1984 Lawrence, KS
Florida State 42, Kansas 16
Bruce Heggie returned a blocked punt seven
yards for a touchdown and Joe Wessel set up
another score by dropping Kansas punter Tom
Becker on the Kansas 15 as Florida State scored
two touchdowns in the first three minutes of the
fourth quarter. In Coach Bowden’s 9th season at
FSU, he led the Seminoles to a 7-3-2 record.
October 3, 1992 Coral Gables, FL
Miami 19, Florida State 16
The Seminoles had revenge on their minds when
they entered the Orange Bowl to face the topranked
Miami Hurricanes. The previous year, FSU
lost to UM when a last-second field goal sailed
wide right. In 1992, the Seminoles hoped to
atone for that miss but the Hurricanes, playing at
home where theyu had not lost in 47 games, had
other ideas. In the end, FSU suffered a case of
“deja vu” when Dan Mowrey’s game-tying field
goal went wide right as time expired. Bowden led
FSU to an 11-1 record and a No. 2 ranking in his
17th year in Tallahassee.
October 14, 2000 Tallahassee, FL
Florida State 63, Duke 14
Chris Weinke threw for a school-record 536 yards
and five touchdowns as No. 7 Florida State earned
a 63-14 victory over Duke. Weinke picked apart
Duke’s defense, throwing to 10 receivers for 446
yards and four touchdowns by halftime as the
Seminoles built a 42-0 lead. Bowden led the Seminoles
to an 11-2 record and to the national championship
game in his 25th season with Florida
State. FSU finished the season ranked No. 5.