‘A Hall of Fame legacy:’ Remembering the one-of-a-kind life and career of Bobby Bowden


Longtime Florida State booster David Mobley, an accountant in Atlanta, remembers telling Bobby Bowden that he had picked up one of the legendary coach’s former players, Tom Pridemore, as a client.

“Tommy Pridemore’s momma made the best rabbit and biscuits I’ve ever had,” Bowden told Mobley.

Pridemore, now 65, had played safety for Bowden at West Virginia nearly 30 years earlier.

Every time Bowden bumped into Demetro Stephens, long after the former Seminoles linebacker had left school, the coach asked him the same question: “Is your grandfather still making that apple pie?”

When Bowden was trying to secure celebrated linebacker Derrick Brooks during a home visit in Pensacola, Florida in January 1991, Brooks’ younger sister, Latoya, fell asleep on the sofa. Without taking his eyes off Brooks’ mother, Geraldine, Bowden placed the little girl’s head on his knee. Brooks saw the look on his mother’s face and knew right away he was going to Florida State.

For more than a half-century, Bowden won over parents and grandparents in living rooms alike with his trademark Southern charm and kindness. It’s the reason he was regarded as one of the best closers in recruiting, which helped him build one of the greatest dynasties in college football history. Bowden never met a stranger and never forgot a name — or what one of his player’s momma cooked for him.

“You had no chance when you were recruiting against him,” said North Carolina coach Mack Brown, who played at Florida State and coached against Bowden during his first tenure with the Tar Heels from 1988 to 1997. “You knew when he was in the home, you better look out.”

Bowden, a College Football Hall of Famer and the patriarch of one of the sport’s most famous coaching families, died on Sunday morning after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 91. His family announced last month that Bowden had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

“I’ve always tried to serve God’s purpose for my life, on and off the field, and I am prepared for what is to come,” Bowden said in a statement in July. “My wife Ann and our family have been life’s greatest blessing. I am at peace.”

Bowden leaves a legacy that reaches far beyond the game of football and his role as a coach. Famously known for his folksy charm and witty one-liners, Bowden often spent Sunday mornings preaching at church pulpits across the country, using his lofty position to help spread his Christian faith. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes named its national citizenship award after Bowden in 2003.

“Faith is the most important thing in the world to me,” Bowden told ESPN in 2009. “It’s the greatest strength I’ve had. It’s helped me get through the hard times. You’re not going to win every one of your football games. I’ve always said I’m not going to make football my god. A lot of coaches put so much into coaching football games that they have nothing left. I’ve never made football my priority. My priorities are my faith and my dependence on God.”

That was a lesson Bowden tried to teach his players, even if he was criticized by some for doing so.

“Coach Bowden was a father figure to all of us,” said Andre Wadsworth, an All-American defensive end at FSU in 1997. “The first day, he told us he didn’t want us sleeping with women because he thought sex should be saved for marriage. He told us he didn’t want us drinking, even after we turned 21. He told us he was going to treat all of us like his sons, and that’s what he did. He cared about us more than he cared about football.”

It wasn’t just Florida State’s players who were influenced by Bowden’s beliefs.

“I’ve said it many times; next to my father he’s the most influential man in my life,”said former Georgia and Miami coach Mark Richt, a longtime assistant under Bowden. “He showed me the way to a relationship with Jesus, and he gave me an opportunity to coach football at a Power 5 school as a young 25-year-old guy with really no experience. I didn’t even understand at the moment how special it was just to observe him for 15 years as a man of God, a family man and one of the greatest coaches in the history of college football. I couldn’t have broken into the business under anybody better than that.”

Bowden’s 377 victories at Howard College (now Samford University), West Virginia and Florida State are more than every major college football coach except Joe Paterno, who won 409 games in 46 seasons at Penn State. Bowden guided his FSU teams to a 315-98-4 record (the Seminoles were forced to vacate 12 wins because of NCAA violations), 12 ACC championships and two national titles, in 1993 and 1999. When Bowden retired after the 2009 season, he ranked first among active coaches in winning percentage in bowl games (68.8%), second in bowl victories (22) and second in bowl appearances (33).

Bowden led his teams to bowl games for 27 consecutive seasons, including a remarkable 15 straight appearances in prestigious New Year’s Day bowl contests. At one point, Bowden’s teams won 11 consecutive bowl games over that stretch. He is also the only coach in NCAA history to lead teams to 14 straight seasons with 10 victories or more.

“We knew things were good, but we probably didn’t realize how good they were,” Richt said. “Working for Coach Bowden, everybody truly loved him and wanted to do a great job for him. I think players felt that way, I think coaches felt that way. There are a lot of different leadership styles, including some that have to remind you everyday who’s the boss. Everybody knew Coach Bowden was in charge, and he didn’t have to try to impose his will on anybody. He didn’t motivate through fear; he motivated more intrinsically through love.”

That didn’t mean Bowden wasn’t competitive. Brown recalled a game against Florida State in 1997, when the Seminoles were ranked No. 2 in the country and the Tar Heels No. 5. Brown and Bowden met at midfield before the showdown of undefeated teams at Keenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

“I never thought I’d see this, boy,” Bowden said to Brown. “This is really cool. This thing is packed two hours before the game. You’ve got to feel really good about that.”

Bowden was struggling with a bad back at the time and coached much of the game from a stool.

“Coach, I don’t know if we can beat you or not,” Brown told him. “But my goal tonight is to get you off that stool.”

“You’ve got a good team,” Bowden replied. “I don’t know if you can get me off that stool or not. That’s going to be hard.”

Bowden might have gotten up from the stool twice that night — once at halftime and again in the closing seconds of FSU’s 20-3 victory.

The popularity of Bowden’s football program helped Florida State grow into one of the country’s largest public universities. From 1909 to 1947, FSU was known as the Florida State College for Women until it returned to coed status. FSU didn’t field its first football team until 1947 — more than four decades after the University of Florida fielded its first team — and didn’t award athletic scholarships until 1951.

Bowden coached 26 consensus All-Americans, including multiple winners of college football’s greatest individual awards. Quarterback Charlie Ward, who led FSU to its first national championship, won the 1993 Heisman Trophy. Chris Weinke, who was the first three-year starter at quarterback under Bowden, won the Heisman in 2000. Ward and Weinke were among three FSU quarterbacks to win the Johnny Unitas Award, while Seminoles players also won the Thorpe, Butkus, Davey O’Brien, Lou Groza and Lombardi awards during Bowden’s tenure.

Under Bowden, FSU became one of the great training grounds for future NFL players. A Seminoles player was selected in the NFL draft every year from 1984 to 2009, with 30 being NFL first-round selections and more than 150 drafted after Bowden took over the program.

Football kept Bowden away from his wife and six children, but three of his sons played on his college teams and later followed him into coaching. Tommy Bowden was the coach at Tulane and Clemson, leading the Green Wave to a 12-0 season in 1998. Terry was the coach at Salem (W.Va.) College, Samford (Ala.) University, Auburn, North Alabama, Akron and will coach his first season at Louisana Monroe this season. He guided the 1993 Auburn team to an 11-0 record. Jeff worked on his father’s FSU staff as wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator from 1994 to 2006.

Bobby Bowden said he never pressured his sons to follow him into coaching.

“I did not encourage them to be coaches, and I didn’t want them to get into coaching,” Bowden said in 2009. “I did not want to compete against them, and I didn’t want them competing against each other.”

In 1999, Florida State and Clemson met for the first time with Bobby and Tommy Bowden on opposite sidelines. The game was dubbed the “Bowden Bowl” and was the first major college football meeting of father-son coaches. FSU won the first Bowden Bowl 17-14, the first of four straight victories for Bobby Bowden over his son’s teams. Clemson upset No. 3 FSU 26-10 in 2003 — on Bobby Bowden’s 74th birthday — knocking the Seminoles out of the national championship race.

Bobby Bowden had a 5-4 advantage over his son in head-to-head meetings before Tommy was forced to resign as Clemson’s coach midway through the 2008 season. In the end, the pressure of the Bowden Bowl was too much, especially for the family’s matriarch.

“You see blood hurting, husband or son,” Tommy Bowden said in 2005. “Somebody’s hurting Sunday, which reflects back on her. We get paid well to hurt. She doesn’t.”

Robert Cleckler “Bobby” Bowden was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on Nov. 8, 1929. His father, Bob Bowden, worked at the First National Bank of Birmingham. His mother, Sunset Cleckler Bowden, was a homemaker. Although Bowden’s father survived the Great Depression, his grandfather, a home builder, went broke and moved into the family’s home in the Woodlawn section of Birmingham.

As a young child, Bobby Bowden spent many fall evenings sitting on the roof of his family’s garage with his father. The roof provided a perch over hedges for Bowden to see the practice fields of Woodlawn High School, which had the best football team in the city. Many of Woodlawn High’s players attended Bob Bowden’s Sunday school class at the neighborhood Baptist church.

In 1934, Bob Bowden moved his family to the East Lake section of Birmingham, into a home that was about a half-block from Howard College. Bobby Bowden started playing football at the YMCA at age 9. On Sunday afternoons, neighborhood boys would meet at Howard College’s practice fields for touch football games. Among the East Lake boys who played with Bowden was Harry Gilmer, who would later become his favorite player as the University of Alabama’s star quarterback.

“All my life, I’ve been right next to a football field,” Bowden told ESPN in 2007. “I never knew nothing else.”

At the age of 13, Bowden suffered from rheumatic fever and was plagued by swelling in his knees. He spent six months in the hospital and was confined to bed for nearly a year after he returned home. While in bed, Bowden developed a love for, of all things, war. He became enthralled by World War II radio reports from faraway battles in France, Germany and other parts of Europe. Without TV, Bowden envisioned the battlefields in his mind and contemplated the strategies of generals.

“I basically listened to a play-by-play of World War II for a year,” Bowden said in the book “The Book of Bowden” by Julie and Jim Bettinger. “I would imagine what every place looked like: what the terrain of the battlefield was like, what the army units looked like and how the sounds and smells of the war must have been. I had a pretty good map in my head of where things were in Europe and I even began to learn which generals were leading which units.”

Bowden also developed a great love for college football while he was ill. He listened to radio broadcasts of Alabama football games on Saturday afternoons. His father bought him a football strategy board game, and Bowden often played out games he was listening to on the radio. Bowden dreamed of one day playing for Frank Thomas, who coached the Crimson Tide from 1931 to 1946. But Bowden first had to convince his doctors that he was healthy enough to play sports again.

Bowden enrolled at Woodlawn High School after recovering from rheumatic fever in 1945. Doctors advised him against playing sports, so Bowden focused his energy on music. He was first chair in the school’s orchestra and a trombonist in the school’s marching band. Bowden played with the Lee Jordan Band at Saturday night dances at the Rose Club. He dreamed of playing in the University of Alabama’s “Million Dollar Band” and even attended band camp in Tuscaloosa for five weeks in the summer of 1945.

Of course, Bowden’s favorite song was, “Yea, Alabama!” Bowden would later hum the Crimson Tide’s fight song to calm his nerves before games in his rookie season as a head coach at West Virginia in 1970. He loved Alabama that much.

“To me, there was no other school,” Bowden told ESPN in 2007. “I was so avid that I can even remember crying. I remember praying, ‘God, please help them win.'”

The only thing Bowden loved more was playing football. Before his sophomore year of high school, Bowden persuaded his parents to get a second opinion from doctors. Bowden’s parents were told their son’s heart was strong enough to play football again, so he went out for the Woodlawn High varsity team in 1946. Bowden promptly broke his thumb and missed all of his sophomore season. He returned the next season and became one of the city’s best halfbacks.

Bowden accepted a scholarship to play football at Alabama in 1948. Howard had been replaced by new coach H.D. “Red” Drew, but Bowden was still living his dream when he played on the Crimson Tide’s freshman team.

Bowden lasted only one semester in Tuscaloosa. He quickly became homesick for Julia Ann Estock, his high school sweetheart, who would become his wife of more than 72 years. Bowden, then 19, and Estock, 16, eloped on April 1, 1949, with Bowden driving his father’s shiny new Ford to a church in Rising Fawn, Georgia. Bowden knew married players couldn’t remain on scholarship at Alabama, so he transferred to Howard College, which was only a few blocks from his parents’ home.

Bowden played halfback and quarterback for Howard College (now Samford University) for four seasons. His teams went 4-5 in 1949, 2-8 in 1950 and 2-3-1 in 1951. He was named “Little All-America” as a senior in 1952 after leading Howard to a 5-4 record.

After graduating from Howard College in 1953, Bowden earned his master’s degree while commuting to Peabody College in Nashville. He and Ann also had a growing family. A daughter, Robyn, was born in 1951, and their oldest son, Steve, was born in 1952. The children stayed with Bowden’s parents while Bowden and his wife finished school.

Bowden returned to his alma mater as an assistant football coach and head track coach in 1954, earning $3,600 annually. He left Howard in 1956 to become athletic director and football coach at South Georgia Junior College, where he won three state championships. Bowden returned to Howard as head football coach in 1959 and inherited a team that had endured six consecutive losing seasons. He went 31-6 in four seasons.

While coaching at Howard, Bowden traveled frequently to Tuscaloosa to watch the Crimson Tide practice. Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant became Bowden’s idol. Bryant was fond of Bowden and often sent him players who couldn’t cut it with the Crimson Tide.

In 1963, Bowden joined Bill Peterson’s FSU staff as wide receivers coach. Bowden spent three seasons in Tallahassee before moving to West Virginia as the Mountaineers’ offensive coordinator in 1966. He was promoted to head coach in 1970 after Jim Carlen left for Texas Tech. Bowden’s first team at West Virginia finished 8-3 in 1970 but was most remembered for blowing a 35-8 halftime lead in a 36-35 loss to rival Pittsburgh. Two years later, the Mountaineers finished 8-4 but lost to NC State 49-13 in the Peach Bowl.

West Virginia slipped to 6-5 in 1973 and 4-7 in 1974, and the pressure on Bowden was mounting. With 17 starters back, including All-America wide receiver Danny Buggs, the 1974 team was expected to be very good. But the Mountaineers lost their top two quarterbacks to injuries and lost their opener against Richmond, 29-25.

Soon, West Virginia fans hanged Bowden in effigy. Students hung a sheet outside a dorm room that read, “Bye-bye Bowden.” Bowden saw the sign each day he walked to his office. Fans also placed a “For Sale” sign in the front yard of Bowden’s home. Ann Bowden removed the sign before her husband could see it.

“I can’t forget that,” Bowden told reporters before FSU played West Virginia in the 2004 Gator Bowl. “I saw how quick people will turn on you. I saw how quickly friends would turn on you, how quickly people who used to invite me to parties quit inviting me.”

The Mountaineers rebounded with a 9-3 record in 1975, including a 13-10 victory over NC State in the Peach Bowl. After the 1975 season, Bowden was coaching in a college all-star game in Tampa, Florida. He received a phone call from FSU president Stanley Marshall and athletic director John Bridges about the Seminoles’ vacant coaching position. Bowden had sought the FSU job after his first season at West Virginia in 1970, but FSU officials didn’t feel he was ready. FSU hired Tennessee defensive coordinator Larry Jones instead. Jones and his successor, Darrell Mudra (who coached from the press box instead of the sideline) were a combined 19-37 in five seasons from 1971 to 1975.

With the FSU program reeling, Bowden finally was offered the job. It was a decision that would forever change the face of FSU and college football. In 1976, Bowden’s first season, the Seminoles finished 5-6, which, remarkably, was his only losing season at FSU. The Seminoles went 10-2 in 1977 and 8-3 in 1978. The 1979 team — which was led by Bowden’s first senior class — went 11-0 in the regular season. The Seminoles lost to Oklahoma 24-7 in the Orange Bowl. FSU went 10-2 in 1980, upsetting No. 3 Nebraska 18-14 on the road. Bowden believed that was the victory that put his program on the map.

“Up until that point, I don’t think a lot of people had heard of Florida State,” Bowden said in 2009. “Maybe they had heard of Florida State down in the South, but not all over the country. But after that game, people everywhere were saying, ‘Who’s Florida State?'”

It wouldn’t be long before the entire country knew who the Seminoles were. The 1981 FSU team finished 6-5 after laboring through one of the toughest schedules in college football history. In five consecutive games that became known as “Octoberfest,” the Seminoles played road games at traditional powers Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and LSU and went 3-2 in that stretch. Still independent at that point, FSU’s football team had to help the athletics department balance its budget.

In the 1986 season — Bowden’s 11th season at FSU — the Seminoles finished 7-4-1 and were invited to play in the All-American Bowl.

As soon as FSU arrived in Bowden’s hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, coach Ray Perkins resigned to become coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Alabama fans knew whom they wanted as their next coach — Bowden. He met with Alabama officials but was told that university president Joab Thomas wanted him to go through a full-scale interview. Bowden left the meeting and removed himself from consideration for the job. When Crimson Tide coach Bill Curry resigned three years later, Alabama officials called and offered Bowden the job — without an interview — but he respectfully declined.

“I thought I was supposed to go back there, you know it?” Bowden told ESPN in 2007. “You know how you feel like you’re just kind of being led someplace? I’m thinking, ‘Boy, it’s funny how my career is. I’m going to end up back where I always wanted to be.’ And I just thought it was meant to be. But it wasn’t.”

Bowden’s destiny was to coach at FSU, even if he didn’t know it at the time. When Bowden accepted the coaching position at FSU in 1976, he thought it would be another stepping stone to a more attractive job in his native Alabama. After having spent the previous decade in West Virginia, Bowden wanted to reacquaint himself with Southern college football fans. And after seeing FSU’s 1981 schedule for the first time, he hoped he wouldn’t be in Tallahassee for very long.

“I never really came here to stay,” Bowden once said. “It just ended up happening that way.”

In more than three decades as FSU’s coach, Bowden never had any reason to leave. The 1987 FSU team finished 11-1, which started a streak of 14 consecutive seasons with 10 or more victories. The Seminoles finished in the top 5 of the final Associated Press Top 25 poll every season from 1987 to 2000. After joining the ACC in 1992, FSU won its first 29 ACC games and didn’t lose to a league foe until a 33-28 loss at Virginia on Nov. 2, 1995. FSU won ACC titles in each of its first nine seasons in the league.

“Everybody said we were second-best in the ACC [at North Carolina],” Brown said. “Everybody else in the country was second-best because of him. His teams were in the top four in 14 straight seasons. You just don’t do that. I don’t care who you are or where you’re coaching.”

But Bowden didn’t win his first national championship until 1993, and in-state rival Miami was largely the reason he had to wait. In 1987, FSU’s only defeat was a 26-25 loss to Miami. The next season, the Seminoles were ranked No. 1 in the preseason but lost to the Hurricanes 31-0 in their opener. Miami beat FSU seven times in eight seasons from 1985 to 1992, with many of those losses costing the Seminoles a chance to play for the national championship.

FSU’s most famous loss to Miami came in 1991, when the No. 1 Seminoles lost to the No. 2 Hurricanes 17-16 after FSU kicker Gerry Thomas’ 34-yard field goal try sailed wide right with 29 seconds to play. The play infamously became known as “Wide Right.” The very next season, FSU lost to Miami 19-16 when Dan Mowrey missed a 39-yard field goal — how else? — wide right on the final play.

“As good as we were, we didn’t win a national championship until 1993, mainly because we kept losing to Miami on missed kicks,” Bowden said. “I used to get mad because nobody else would play Miami. Notre Dame would play them, then drop them. Florida dropped them. Penn State dropped them. We would play Miami and lose by one point on a missed field goal, and it would knock us out of the national championship. I didn’t want to play them either, but I had to play them. That’s why I said, ‘When I die, they’ll say, ‘At least he played Miami.'”

Florida State finally beat Miami, 28-10, in 1993. The Seminoles lost at No. 2 Notre Dame 31-24 in their 10th game but recovered to beat NC State and Florida to end the regular season with an 11-1 record. Bowden won his first national championship when No. 1 FSU defeated No. 2 Nebraska 18-16 in the Orange Bowl. Ironically, the Seminoles won the game after Cornhuskers kicker Byron Bennett’s 45-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left on the final play.

Bowden added a second national championship in 1999 — at age 70 — when the Seminoles finished 12-0 and became the first team to go wire-to-wire as the No. 1-ranked team in the country.

“They always said, ‘He can’t win the big one,'” Bowden said. “When you finally win it, it was more of a relief. When we won the second national championship, it was more of an accomplishment. You were No. 1 in the country from start to finish, which had never been done before. That was a great accomplishment.”

Bowden’s dynasty was criticized at times for players’ misconduct and what some perceived as his soft hand at punishment. All-America cornerback Deion Sanders helped FSU beat Auburn 13-7 in the 1989 Sugar Bowl, but it was later discovered that Sanders had quit going to class and hadn’t taken exams the previous fall semester. The state’s board of regents passed an attendance rule that became known as the “Deion Rule.”

Shortly after FSU won the 1993 national championship, Sports Illustrated published a cover story that alleged that at least seven Seminoles players participated in a $6,000 shopping spree at a Foot Locker store. The shopping spree allegedly was paid for by an associate of a sports agent, which would have made the players ineligible under NCAA rules. The incident led then-Florida coach Steve Spurrier to call his team’s biggest rival “Free Shoes U.”

In FSU’s 1999 national championship season, star receiver Peter Warrick, a Heisman Trophy candidate, and Laveranues Coles were charged with receiving deeply discounted merchandise from a department store. Bowden was criticized because he kicked Coles off the team but only suspended Warrick for two games. In FSU’s 46-29 victory over Virginia Tech in the 2000 Sugar Bowl, Warrick caught six passes for 163 yards with two touchdowns and returned a punt 59 yards for a score.

Before that same bowl game, Bowden was criticized for not suspending All-America kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who had missed the team’s curfew in New Orleans. Bowden joked that he didn’t have “Warsaw rules” for his Polish-born kicker.

“I don’t care what they say,” Bowden said in 2009. “I’m in charge of 115 boys. If I have five get in trouble, I have 110 who didn’t. That’s a pretty good average, but we’ll be criticized for it. That’s our society today. I’ve always been pretty tough. You probably get a little more understanding as you get older, but I’ve always felt I was pretty tough when it came to discipline. People have always called me a second-chance coach, but that’s the way I was raised. If people hadn’t given me a second chance, I’d have never made it.”

Florida State’s biggest scandal came in the 2007 season. Shortly before the Seminoles played Kentucky in the Music City Bowl, the school suspended more than two dozen players for cheating in an online music course. An investigation found 61 student-athletes in 10 sports received improper assistance in the music course. The NCAA placed FSU on four years’ probation, cut 19 athletic scholarships and ordered the school to vacate victories by teams whose student-athletes were involved, including 12 in football.

“In 50 years of coaching, I’ve never been accused of cheating,” Bowden said in 2009. “Now they want to penalize me for something I didn’t have a part in.”

At the time, Bowden wondered how the scandal would affect his legacy.

“He’s got a Hall of Fame legacy where he touched so many lives,” Brown said. “The legacy that Coach Bowden has is not the name on the field, all of the wins or whether he had a few taken away or not. His legacy is the countless number of players that love him and the players’ and coaches’ lives he touched, and the impact he had on so many people like me. He did it right and he always did it with a smile.”

After losing to Oklahoma 13-2 in the 2001 BCS National Championship Game, Bowden’s program began to slide. The team that had set the standard for college football in the 1990s won 10 games in only one season from 2001 to 2008. Many FSU fans began to wonder whether Bowden had lost his touch. But Bowden continued to coach beyond his 80th birthday, hoping to return FSU to the sport’s upper echelon one more time.

Then-FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, who played quarterback for Terry Bowden and coached with him at Samford, was named Bobby Bowden’s eventual successor near the end of the 2007 season. The plan was for Fisher to coach under Bowden until the end of the 2010 season. But when FSU struggled again in 2009, Bowden was unceremoniously forced to retire. Fisher guided the Seminoles to a 14-0 record and a national championship in 2014. He left for Texas A&M in December 2017.

As much as college football changed and evolved during the more than five decades Bowden stood on the sideline, his life away from the game seldom wavered.

Bowden and Julia Ann lived in the same house in Tallahassee they bought when he was hired at FSU in 1976. They even had the same phone number for nearly a half-decade. Their number had always been listed in the local phone book, even after pressure mounted on Bowden to win more games near the end of his tenure. Bowden never drank or smoked and rarely cursed. He was known for taking his players to church once a year, and seldom missed a Sunday service himself.

“I can hardly remember not being a believer,” Bowden said in the book “I Saw Him in Your Eyes” by author Ace Collins. “I was always going to church with my mom, dad and sister. I was literally raised under the godly influence both at home and church. There was no alcohol and no smoking at our house. That was the way a Bowden was supposed to live. My dad always told me to represent the Bowden name in a respectful manner. I grew to understand that meant living with the highest moral values. I knew that just being a Bowden meant I could not be involved in anything that would reflect badly on our name.”

Bowden spent the final years of his life staying busy with speaking engagements and playing golf.

“I’ve seen so many people retire and die,” Bowden said in 2009. “My dad retired and died a year later. Coach Bryant retired and died a month later. After I retire, there’s only one great event left.”

Dadgummit, and now he’s gone.

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