Bobby Bowden lives his life like he is on a mission, in whatever he does. It doesn’t matter whether he is coaching the Florida State Seminoles football team to another national championship, sharing his Christian faith, or helping others through charity-he doesn’t do anything halfway.
Any college football fan knows at least a little about Bobby Bowden’s success as a football coach at Florida State. Not many know about his other missions in life-sharing his faith and helping others.
Bowden was born November 28, 1929 in Birmingham, Alabama. He has been the head coach at Florida State since 1976. He has coached the Seminoles to national championships in 1993 and 1999 and 12 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships.
The fact he made it that far is noteworthy, because he spent a good deal of his childhood in bed, sick. At 13 he was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and was in the hospital for six months, followed by being bedridden at home for more than a year. He had nothing but a radio and an imagination to pass his time. Listening to the radio gave him an interest in World War II, an interest he has to this day, and a love for football. He listened to the University of Alabama play on Saturday mornings.
Bobby Bowden was an outstanding football player himself at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham and played quarterback at the University of Alabama.
In his coaching career, Bobby Bowden was an assistant track and field coach for Howard College (now Samford University), from 1954-1955, the Athletic Director and head football, baseball, and basketball coach at South Georgia College from 1956-1958, head football coach at Samford, compiling a 31-6 record from 1959-1962, and head coach at West Virginia University, compiling a 42-26 record from 1962-1975. His 359 career victories ranks first among all Division 1-A coaches, active or not.
When he came to Florida State, Bowden took over a team that had won just four games over the previous three seasons. During his tenure, the Seminoles have a 286-75-4 record. He is the only Division 1-A football coach ever to have his teams have 14 straight 10 win seasons. The team also finished in the top five for 14 straight seasons, another unprecedented accomplishment.
Bobby Bowden is nicknamed the “Riverboat Gambler,” for his creative trick plays. He is also known for his southern drawl and his statements like, “Dad gummit.”
He has a 19-8-1 record and .672 winning percentage in bowl games, the third best all time percentage. Only Joe Paterno has won more bowl games.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2004 presented the first National Bobby Bowden Award to honor one college football player for commitments on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.
Bobby Bowden has been so successful that the Florida legislature in 2004 renamed the field at Doak Campbell Stadium, Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Bobby’s son, Tommy, is the head football coach at Clemson University, and another son, Terry, was the head coach at Auburn and was coach of the year in 1993. Another son, Jeff, is the offensive coordinator for the Seminoles football team for his dad. Florida State and Clemson play every year in what has been nicknamed, “The Bowden Bowl.” The first time the two teams played with Terry as head coach of Clemson, it was the first time in Division 1-A history a father and son had met as opposing coaches in a college football game. Bobby has a 5-2 record against his son.
Football isn’t Bobby Bowden’s only interest, nor does he consider it his most important interest. During his 46 years of coaching Bowden has tried to share his faith with the 5,000 men under his authority. His desire is for all his players to be believers in Jesus Christ as God’s Son.
When a new recruit signs to play for Florida State, one of the first things Bowden does is send a letter to the player’s parents, asking for permission to take the recruit to church.
Bowden takes the team as a whole twice to church during a season. As a rule, one church is predominantly Anglo, and another is predominantly African American.
As recorded in www.bpsports.net, he tells parents he wants his players to continue living the way they did at home, because typically “when kids get away to college, the first thing they do is quit going to church.”
Bowden said a man’s mission in life is to glorify God in whatever situation God has put him in.
Bobby Bowden encourages all his players, even those who will be drafted by NFL teams, to pray and seek God’s direction before deciding upon a career.
One of Bowden’s goals is to always shake the hand of the opposing coach at the end of every game, whether his team has won or lost.
Bobby Bowden never minces words, whether talking privately or whether someone from the news media is listening, in sharing what he believes about a faith in God that brings salvation and forgiveness from God. He often speaks at churches, especially when he is on the road with his team.
Besides giving his best at football, seeking to live a pure life, and verbally sharing his faith, Bobby Bowden also shines his light by helping others through charity.
Bowden has been involved with CharitySignings.com, which provides memorabilia to interested people, signed by various celebrities. Each year the money raised from the purchase of various authenticated memorabilia goes to one designated charity.
He was involved in the 2005-2006 Florida Flame Golf Tourney, Auction.
Bowden also autographed a football for the Lord Wedgewood Charity, which tries to raise money to help those afflicted with sudden cardiac arrest. He also played in a golf tournament for the charity.
One more of the many ways Bobby Bowden has helped people is through being involved a “Dinner with Bobby Bowden” for Anchor House Ministries. The ministry tries to provide full-time car to males, aged 10-17. It provides on-site schooling, individual counseling, life skills training, and practical experience, to help young men learn problem solving, make wise choices, and be able to manage their behavior. Those in the program also participate in a variety of fun activities.
Football is only one of the many interests of Bobby Bowden, coach, Christian, humanitarian. Bobby has been married to his wife, the former Ann Estock, since April 1, 1949, and has six children and 21 grandchildren.