College Football’s Most Famous Family: Tommy Bowden on “Winning Character”

Tommy BowdenTommy Bowden coached for 32 years in college football, and in his first head coaching job at Tulane University in 1997, he lead his team to an undefeated season, a Conference USA Championship and a Liberty Bowl win. Bowden was named Conference USA Coach of the Year. In 1999, Bowden took over the head coaching position at Clemson University. He was named ACC Coach of the year in 1999 and 2003 and in 2006 received the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Coach of the Year Award.

In 2003, Bowden defeated two coaches that had already earned 200 career wins to become the first coach to achieve that in just a month’s time. (Those coaches were his legendary coaching father, Bobby Bowden, and Lou Holtz.)

Since his retirement in 2008, Bowden has become one of the nation’s most sought after inspirational speakers. I recently caught up with the coach at The Gathering’s annual breakfast. Bowden is a best-selling author with his book, Winning Character, and is currently a top college football analyst with Fox Sports television.


CF—Speaking to over 500 men today in West Palm Beach at The Gathering’s annual breakfast, you focused on your latest book, “Winning Character,” explain how you use the book on your speaking tour?

TB—I enjoy what I do speaking around the country, mostly to men, in the spring and summer and doing television analyst work in the fall for FoxSports. I feel the American family is under attack, and I feel men for the most part have fumbled the ball in their godly role of leadership. God has put men in charge of their families, and I just try to get that message across from scripture and a biblical standpoint that men need to raise their children with a spiritual leadership role. I emphasize five key points of a winning character in my latest book.


CF—Tommy, what’s your story about His Glory and how did you find Christ?

TB—I was raised in a Christian environment with my parents and grandparents and I was baptized and accepted Christ as a 12 year old. I don’t think you really understand the what it is being a Christian until you get older and start experiencing some of the trials and tribulations of life. I’ve never really swayed to far from the Word but it’s been a learning process for a number of years for my relationship with Christ.


CF—What are the challenges of being a Christian coach at such a high level?

TB—There are ways to do it. As a head coach I can have closed door meetings and talk about what I want to. Obviously you have to be careful recognizing the guidelines and challenges of church and state with limitations in public schools. There are ways to talk about Christ and the Bible and godly lessons and you just have to be smart how you do it.


CF– How as a Christian coach do you handle the peaks and valleys of the wins and losses?

TB—My father once told me that while football is important it is not the most important thing. I rely on my faith and family as my foundation to weather those storms on and off the field. I take time with meditation and scripture in prayer every morning to get my mind straight for the secular problems you are going to face, and that’s how I handled it the 32 years of coaching.


CF—Growing up around college football and your father as a coach, when was it that you figured out or wanted to become a football coach?

TB— I wrote an autobiography in 6th grade and said I wanted to be a college football coach. If my father was a high school coach, I probably would have wanted to be that, but he was in college so that’s where I wanted to coach.


CF—What’s been your highlight of your football coaching career and your life’s most successful memory?

TB—I think in football it was going undefeated at Tulane. It’s a public school and was not really a college atmosphere with a lot of academic restrictions. In life, marrying my high school sweetheart, Linda White, a very godly woman, and being able to raise our two children, Robert and Lauren, in a Christian home. To raise them spiritually and pray they can grow up and find their own Godly partners.


CF—What was the key thing you learned from your dad as a coach and as a father?

TB—When I got my first coaching job at East Carolina and my father was taking me to the airport, one thing he told me was, “Son, in this profession you have to have a lot of patience and even more perseverance.” In most jobs this is the case but in coaching it’s magnified. These are the two things that have stuck with me throughout my college football career.


CF—Was the NFL ever a thought? You’ve been out of coaching now six years. Do you get the bug to coach again, and would you ever consider another coaching position?

TB—The NFL was never a thought as college coaching has such a different atmosphere and you can shape more character. If my father made that jump, I may have made a move but never really had that desire for the NFL. You never say never about coaching again, but I feel God will make it obvious if He wants me back coaching. God would have to hit me in the head with a 2×4, but God does make 2x4s. I would not say no to God if I feel I was being lead to do that.


CF-As a Christian coach, what is your gut feeling about why Tim Tebow has struggled so much in the NFL, and does it have anything to do with his faith?

TB—In the NFL coaches really do not care about your faith. They just want to win games. I think because so many teams have passed on him that he does have some work to do to make it in the NFL. Tebow under Urban Meyer was successful in college at that run and pass system but that does not relate to how NFL teams run their offenses. He’s had trouble adapting to that change. Tebow has a lot of God given ability, but his skills as a QB are marginal and that many NFL coaches are not going to make mistakes. I don’t think the fact he is a Christian has had anything to do with his opportunities.


CF—Your father was recently attacked by the media for his comments about Jameis Winston, the recent #1 NFL draft pick from Florida State, that his moral values were an embarrassment to the university. What’s your reaction to his comments and the public’s reaction?

TB—Dad’s from a different generation back in the 20s, around the depression, and a lot of things Jameis did weren’t legally wrong but morally there were some issues. My father looked at it more from that stage. I think if you got the other university executives in a room and not in front of a microphone, they’d agree it was embarrassing for FSU what Jameis has been publicized for. There’s a lot of wisdom in an 85-year-old guy, and he’s been around a whole bunch.


Carl Foster is the host/founder of “The Good Sports Magazine Show” now in it’s10th season, airing worldwide every Friday LIVE from 12 noon to 1pm exclusively on

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