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Former Florida State Football Coach Bobby Bowden Dies At 91

As beloved as any coach in America

NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony
CANTON, OHIO - AUGUST 08: A view of a screen honoring Bobby Bowden during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Tom Benson Hall Of Fame Stadium on August 08, 2021 in Canton, Ohio.
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

When Florida State joined the ACC, Seminole football was part shock and part revelation.

No one in the conference had ever seen anything like it. Bobby Bowden put a focus on speed and his teams struck like cobras. Everyone was in awe and the gap between FSU and the rest of the ACC was stunningly wide. Bowden’s teams just ate the ACC alive.

Bowden built an incredible program at Florida State. It was impossible to turn away because things could happen in a heartbeat. That program was a carnival, a moveable feast.

Bowden, who was fondly called St. Bobby by Seminole fans, passed away Sunday from pancreatic cancer. A lot of progress has been made on pancreatic cancer, but when you’re 91, and had Covid not all that long ago, it’s asking a lot. He knew he didn’t have long and lived the rest of his life with dignity and faith.

We didn't know a whole lot about his early life until this weekend but we saw three very telling things.

  1. He had a shot to play quarterback at Alabama but left because he wanted to get married and wouldn’t be allowed to do that at ‘Bama. He wasn’t willing to wait to marry his high school sweetheart. Bobby and Ann Bowden were married for 73 years, four months and one week.Football was a huge part of Bowden’s life, but clearly it wasn’t the most important thing.
  2. Bowden was coaching at West Virginia in 1970 when Marshall’s football team perished in a plane wreck. Bowden apparently asked the NCAA if West Virginia could play a game for Marshall (the NCAA said no). He also asked if WVU could wear Marshall’s colors. The NCAA again said no. But he did allow Marshall to use West Virginia’s equipment and facilities while the shattered program rebuilt.
  3. He offered the then-unknown Nick Saban a job at WVU after his father died so that Saban could be closer to his mother, something that Saban never forgot.

Bowden wasn’t a perfect man; who is? But he as a very good man and his impulses were towards decency and compassion and people loved him for that.

Saying goodbye to a beloved person is never easy, but there’s nothing quite like the goodbye a southern football coach receives. Bowden is going to get an amazing sendoff which is appropriate: we won’t see the likes of him again anytime soon.