Bobby Bowden’s greatest gift to the world was his ability to make everyone feel like they were Hall of Famers.
The patriarch of Florida State football and the coach who built a dynasty from scratch died at 91 on Sunday at his home in Tallahassee, Florida. He died two weeks after his family publicly revealed that he had pancreatic carcinoma.
Bowden’s record is one of the best in history. He has 377 wins, 12 Atlantic Coast Conference championships, and two national titles. There was a flood of memories and tributes to Bowden’s passing, from people whose lives he touched with his kindness, humility, and levity.
Alabama coach Nick Saban recalled how Bowden reached out to Saban after Saban’s father passed away.
“Coach didn’t know me from Adam’s house cat, but he knew my Dad and got word that maybe my Mom was struggling a bit back home in West Virginia,” Saban wrote in a social media post. Bowden stated that Saban could be near his mother if he needed it.
Saban was curious, “How many coaches would that?” “How many people would do this?”
Shane Beamer of South Carolina, the son of Frank Beamer (a former Virginia Tech coach) recalled how he used to write letters to coaches as a young man, hoping to emulate his father.
“I wrote hundreds of them,” Beamer wrote. “I have never heard back from any of them. “I ALWAYS received a reply from Coach Bowden.”
Bowden was almost certain to have spoken with anyone who has covered college football for the past 40 years. You could find his home phone number and he would be happy to answer any questions.
Bowden was my first encounter in person. He met me at a Florida State practice, in Tallahassee, in September 2005. As the team was working out, we chatted on Bowden’s golf cart. Yes, the coach, one of the most successful in the history the game, gave an interview to a reporter that he had never met before during practice. As I recall, he even worked in a Dagummit.
Bowden was one of the last college football coaches to not protect the program like a fortress. Bowden seemed to be able to see that it was possible to be competitive without taking the job too seriously.
He wanted to know more about me, and my origins. As I asked him about me and my family, he was friendly and charming. Bowden stated that he would know when it was.