Bobby Bowden is the winningest coach in the history of Division I college football. Over the last 20 years no program has a higher winning percentage than Florida State University. Bowden became the first coach in college football history to lead his team to 26 straight Bowl Games. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame December 5, 2006, while still actively coaching.
The patriarch of college football’s most famous coaching family, Bowden remains heavily involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) annually awarding The National Bobby Bowden Award to a student-athlete for achievement on and off the field including his conduct as a faith model in the community. He was the keynote speaker at PGA National for the Gold Coast FCA fundraising dinner in September.
Since his retirement in January of 2010, Bowden has become one of the nation’s most sought after motivational speakers. A New York Times Best Selling Author for his book, “Called To Coach,” Bowden is currently on a book tour with his most recent book, “The Wisdom of Faith” written with son, Steve Bowden.
“Dag-gummitt” may not be in Webster’s dictionary, but if you’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing Coach Bobby Bowden speak, these words have become synonymous with his larger than life personality and his uncanny ability of being a down-to-earth mentor capable of inspiring players and coaches alike.
Bowden was “raised in a very good Christian home” under the care of “great” parents.” They took him to church all of his life, had prayer in the home and read scripture. Bowden made a public profession of faith when he was around age 10, but said it wasn’t until he was 23 that he really ‘got the picture’ and rededicated his life to the Lord.
During his 46 years of coaching, Bowden has concerned himself with the salvation of nearly 5,000 young men who have providentially found themselves at his coaching door. He has never been shy about his faith while coaching and was just as concerned about his players ‘getting saved’ as learning the playbook.
Addressing a crowd of over 500 at a recent FCA Night of Champions fundraiser, Bowden stated, “God hasn’t blessed many coaches more than He has me, and I am very thankful for that. God has given me a great family. We’ve all been very fortunate.”
Bobby and Ann Bowden have been married 65 years and his latest book, “The Wisdom of Faith,” opens with a letter from Bowden to his family after the loss of his grandson and former son-in-law in a tragic accident in the aftermath of Hurricane Frances in 2004. Following the letter, Bowden includes chapters on fear, trust, courage, responsibility, humility, patience, discipline, contentment, suffering and love. Bowden lost a second grandson in a single-car accident last December.
“Coach Bowden gives us insight into the role his strong faith in God played in his life,” said Sylverster Croom, NFL’s Tennessee Titans running backs coach. “He continues to coach as he reveals his game plan for victorious living.”
Bowden remains involved in traveling the country speaking to groups and acknowledging examples of faith. During his evening at PGA recently, the Bowden Coaches award was presented to local high school Hall of Fame coach, Ron Ream, who had over 200 wins in 29 years as head football coach at Benjamin and has been faithful in leading the FCA Huddle groups off the field ‘saving souls’ for Jesus.
Q and A with Bowden
Recently, I had a chance to talk to Coach Bowden on my ‘Good Sports Magazine Show’ about his faith and football:
Q — What role has faith played in your life and football coaching career.
A — Faith is the most important thing in the world to me. 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. I can hardly remember not being a believer. 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.
Q — Now that you’re retired as a college football coach, what do you feel God is calling you to do?
A — I don’t want to do nothing. That’s what puts you in your grave, doing nothing, so I want to do something. I can’t think of anything better for me to do than go out and what I call “evangelizing,’ talk to people on what I believe and what I believe in. My whole thing is to help young kids. They need help. Some of them are not getting it at home. Some of them ain’t got a home. I feel God put me in a position to coach young men and witness for Him.
Q — What has been your role the past 40 years with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and how is life is different not coaching?
A — I just enjoy speaking the Gospel at FCA groups and churches and being able to tell a few jokes and share stories of past experiences in coaching and spreading the inspiration and hope by inviting Jesus Christ into your heart. The best thing about retirement is you don’t have to get up every day at 4 a.m. and every day is like a Saturday. Some days I sleep in until 4:30 a.m. When I speak within 50 miles of Tallahassee, I always bring my wife of 65 years, Ann, and I let her drive. I just hold the wheel.
Carl Foster is the host and founder of “The Good Sports Magazine Show” now in it’s10th season, airing worldwide every Friday LIVE from 12 noon to 1pm exclusively on www.GraceNetRadio.com.