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Bobby Bowden bio

FSU head coach - Bobby Bowden

"I'm being coached by a legend every day. He's on top of his game 100 percent. He can relate to his players," said senior nose guard Andre Fluellen when asked about his head coach.

Words like legend are often used when describing Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden and it's an all too fitting term. Bowden has carved his place in college football history and has etched his name among the all-time greats, beginning with the fact that no other coach in major college football history has won more games. But his legacy goes well beyond his impressive win total. He has gained respect and notoriety in the profession by the manner in which he has achieved these accomplishments.

"It will be an honor to coach against Bobby Bowden," UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell said during a 2006 Emerald Bowl press conference. "I've always admired the way he has run his program. He has always done things the right way.

"I'm a little bit awestruck being here, in terms of what he's done and where he's been. I've done nothing compared to him. Not many guys have."

Further defining this stature, Bowden was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December 2006. In a rare, yet remarkable gesture, he and Penn State's Joe Paterno were inducted while still actively coaching. The previous rule was that a person must be retired before they can be elected in, but the rule was changed. Instead of requiring a person be retired, the National Football Foundation decided to make any active coach over 75 eligible for induction.

Both Bowden and Paterno also received an even greater honor when they were presented with the organization's very highest distinction, the Gold Medal, joining the likes of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and H. Norman Schwarzkopf.Like few other coaches before him, Bowden has created something of a monster that sits squarely on his shoulders. He has coached his Florida State teams so very close to perfection that people have come to expect the moon. He has won 167 games over the last 16 seasons, including monumental wins over Miami, Notre Dame, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Florida and others.

"I have been coaching for 54 years and married to (wife) Ann for 56 years," Bowden said at the ceremony. "Football offers you the greatest opportunity for a coach to succeed in any sport. I'm looking out on this audience and seeing many people who haven't lived their lives. They have so much ahead of them, and, just as with all six of my football jobs in four different states, I know that you have to have faith, belief -- I'm not talking about fate. I have been very fortunate in my profession, and this is just a wonderful award. I am truly honored."

An honor indeed and a sparkling addition to Bowden's résumé, which is truly startling. He's the winningest Division 1-A college football coach with 366 victories. His 20 bowl wins are two shy of the all-time bowl record and he led the Seminoles to their 25th-straight bowl game in 2006, the second-longest current bowl streak. Bowden is the only coach in history to lead his team to 14 straight seasons of being ranked inside the Associated Press' top five. Bowden has coached the Seminoles to two national championships, including the 1999 squad that was the first ever to go through a season from start to finish as the AP's No. 1 team. The Seminoles played in three straight national title games from 1999-2001 and five title games in eight years and have won more games since 1990 than any other program in the country.

So overwhelming has Bowden's influence been on college football and, in particular, at Florida State, that the field at Doak Campbell Stadium was named after him in 2004 and a national award given by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes now bears his name.

While the list of former players whom Bowden has coached reads like a who's who, it is important that his players have won as many awards for academic and community service accomplishments as feats on the field. Bowden has coached nine players who won NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships, 11 first or second team academic All-Americans, 61 ACC All-Academic Team selections and two players, Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn, who were named NFL Man of the Year. Bowden has a lso coached a pair of Heisman Trophy Winners, and two winners of the Thorpe, Butkus, Groza, O'Brien and Lombardi Trophies, in addition to three Johnny Unitas winners. A total of 25 Seminoles have earned first-team Associated Press All-America honors under Bowden and 150 of his FSU players have been drafted by the NFL. Florida State now leads all schools with the most players drafted (97) since 1993.

Bowden's interest in the sport of football began while watching his neighborhood high school team practice just on the other side of his backyard fence in Birmingham, Alabama. His love and talent for the game grew from playing with friends on the same fields everyday and later practicing with high school teammates. His knowledge of the game grew as a quarterback at Samford and from watching and listening to the legendary Bear Bryant. His skill and creativity were honed on the coaching staffs at South Georgia Junior College, FSU and West Virginia. But it has been his combination of leadership, vision, talent and magnetic personality that have flourished at Florida State, raising the program from perhaps its lowest point to the national powerhouse it is today.

Bowden trails college football's overall record for bowl games won held by Paterno with 22. The two legends met in the 2006 Orange Bowl and played to triple overtime before the Nittany Lions won 26-23. Bowden ranks second all-time in bowl winning percentage. From 1991-2005, the Seminoles made 15 consecutive trips to "New Year's Day" bowls and the 2006 Emerald Bowl marked the 25th-straight season that the Seminoles reached a bowl game. FSU's bowl streak ranks second nationally only to Michigan while at the time, the streak of "New Year's Day" bowls led the country. Bowden is the only coach in NCAA history to win 11 consecutive bowl games (1985-95) and the only coach ever with 14 consecutive bowl appearances (1982-95) without a loss (FSU tied Georgia 17-17 in the 1984 Citrus Bowl). Bowden and Florida State finished the 2006 season with an Emerald Bowl victory over UCLA marking the 20th bowl victory in his illustrious career. He is now one of just two coaches in NCAA history with 20 bowl wins.

Bowden's remarkable career is even more impressive when you consider the fact that he took over an FSU program in 1976 that had won just four games over the previous three seasons. He has remained at FSU despite offers from NFL teams and several other prestigious college football programs. Bowden's loyalty has meant the world to Florida State University and its athletics program. Part of that was recognized by the school in 2004 with the dedication of a statue of him that sits in front of the Moore Athletic Center and with the official proclamation of Bobby Bowden Field at Doak S. Campbell Stadium.

Bowden's record at Florida State is 293-81-4. The totals include a 155-26-2 record in Tallahassee, 33-8-1 record at neutral sites and 105-46-1 on an opponent's field. He has built those numbers against some of the nation's toughest schedules, earning respect for his team, attracting top players to his program and establishing his reputation as a competitor in the process.

Bowden achieved impressive numbers in his previous coaching stops, including a 31-6 record at his alma mater Samford University between 1959 and 1962, and a 42-26 mark at West Virginia from 1970-75 making his overall career record 366-113-4. But what he as done at FSU is simply phenomenal. Eighteen times in 31 years, his Seminoles have won 10 or more games in a season. Florida State had been to just eight bowls in the 29 years before him. The 2006 Emerald Bowl marked the Seminoles' 28th since his arrival. He is, by far, the winningest coach ever at Florida State as his win total is greater than the previous seven Seminole head coaches combined.

Florida State is the only school to finish among the (Associated Press) top five for 14 consecutive seasons. The Seminoles finished first twice (1993, 1999), second twice (1987, 92), third four times (1988, 89, 97, 99), fourth five times (1990, 91, 94, 95, 96) and fifth in 2000. No team in college football history can match the run. Over the past 15 years, Florida State has played in the Atlantic Coast Conference. FSU is 104-16 since joining the league in 1992 and has claimed 12 ACC championships, including the 2005 title in the first-ever ACC Championship game. The Seminoles won 100 games faster than any team in conference history and also set the league record for consecutive victories. Bowden picked up ACC Coach of the Year titles in 1993 and 1997.

Part of the reason for Bowden's success in his long run at FSU is that the elements of the job that seem to turn into chores over the years for most coaches: recruiting, speaking engagements, public functions, and press responsibilities, come easily for Bowden.

"I feel great physically," said Bowden who turns 78 in November. "I've always been a people person. I enjoy getting to know people, so the recruiting is still a lot of fun for me. I like going into a player's home and meeting his parents and family. I don't have any desire to slow down on all the elements outside of the actual game that some people find hard. I understand why it grinds away at some people, but it just doesn't on me. I guess I've always been able to put football in its place."

He has developed the most consistently successful program in the history of college football. FSU won more games in the decade of the 1990s than any other program. The win over Wake Forest on October 25, 2003 allowed him to become the all-time winningest major college coach.

"To be honest, it doesn't really feel like I should be there," said Bowden at the time of the feat. "It's not something that I sat down 40 years ago and said `you know if I coached long enough and was successful maybe I could get there'. That type of thought never entered my mind. I don't really think about it. Maybe when I'm done I'll look back on everything."

While Bowden has not spent much time looking back, most of the nation has spent time looking in at his program's extraordinary success. Just imagine a college basketball program advancing to the Final Four for 14 years in a row. FSU set an NCAA record with 14 straight top five finishes and the 2001 Orange Bowl was the Seminole's third straight national title game and fifth in eight years.

Like few other coaches before him, Bowden has created unreal expectations for his program. He has coached his Florida State teams so very close to perfection that for some, anything short of another national championship is a down year.

In the fickle world of "big-time" college sports some forget what it is all about. Sure, Bobby Bowden is proud of his two national championships, his place among the all-time greats, and a football program that is the model for the entire country. But he has always pointed to the fact that there are more important things in life. He makes time for charity and to give to his church. He has never passed an admiring child without a wink and a smile. He greets total strangers. He listens and he cares.

What Bobby Bowden means to Florida State University off the playing field cannot be measured. Respect, sincerity, class, honesty, charisma, charm and humor are just some of the words that describe and define this man better than wins, losses or coaching records.

It has been well chronicled how the Birmingham native left snowy West Virginia to come to Florida State and save the program. Four seasons after he first walked across the campus, he had taken FSU to within one game of a national championship.

Rising above Bowden's coaching accomplishments, though, are his credentials as a man. Friendly and outgoing, he is a deeply religious man who believes strongly in the strength of the family. He loves people. His personality and charm are bigger than life and he has become somewhat of a folk hero. An engaging speaker, Bowden is constantly in demand and most free evenings will find him on the speaking circuit. His offseason travel schedule would exhaust anyone. Sunday morning will usually find him in the pulpit of a church somewhere in the south. Outside of football, Bowden has an intense interest in World War II history and he is a voracious reader on the subject. He traced his ancestry to parts of Germany and has visited the country several times.

Bowden was an outstanding football player at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham and went on to Alabama as a freshman quarterback, fulfilling a lifelong dream to play for the Crimson Tide. He lasted one semester in Tuscaloosa before high school sweetheart Ann Estock lured him back to Birmingham. They soon married and Bobby transferred to Howard College in Birmingham. The two celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in the same year (1999) that FSU won its second national championship and Bowden coached his only undefeated team, which was the first team ever to go wire-to-wire as the AP No. 1 in college football history.

Bowden served as an assistant football coach and head track coach at Howard College (now Samford) from 1954-55. He left his alma mater to serve as Athletics Director and head coach at South Georgia Junior College from 1956-58. He returned to Samford as head coach from 1959-62. He joined the Florida State coaching staff under head coach Bill Peterson as wide receivers coach from 1963-65. During that time, he coached Seminole receiver T.K. Wetherell who is now president of FSU. Bowden moved on to West Virginia, serving as offensive coordinator from 1966-69 before taking over as the Mountaineers' head coach from 1970-1975. He was named FSU's head coach in January 1976.

Bowden's faith and family have always been most important to him. The nation can follow son Tommy's career as head coach at Clemson as well as Terry, who is a college football analyst. The Bowden's oldest son, Steve, co-wrote a book entitled "The Bowden Way" with his dad that hit the Wall Street Journal's best seller list. Youngest son, Jeff, spent 13 seasons working side-by-side with his father on the FSU staff. His oldest daughter Robyn is married to Atlanta area high school football coach Jack Hines and his youngest daughter Ginger is an attorney. Bowden Milestone Victories At FSU.

SAMFORD W L T Pct
1959 9 1 0 .900
1960 8 1 0 .889
1961 7 2 0 .778
1962 7 2 0 .778
Total (4 years) 31 6 0 .838
WEST VIRGINIA W L T Pct
1970 8 3 0 .727
1971 7 4 0 .636
1972 Peach) 8 4 0 .667
1973 6 5 0 .545
1974 4 7 0 .364
1975 Peach) 9 3 0 .750
Total (6 years) 42 26 0 .618
FLORIDA STATE W L T Pct
1976 5 6 0 .455
1977 (Tangerine) 10 2 0 .833
1978 8 3 0 .727
1979 (Orange) 11 1 0 .917
1980 (Orange) 10 2 0 .833
1981 6 5 0 .545
1982 (Gator) 9 3 0 .750
1983 (Peach) 8 4 0 .667
1984 (Citrus) 7 3 2 .667
1985 (Gator) 9 3 0 .727
1986 (All-American) 7 4 1 .625
1987 (Fiesta) 11 1 0 .917
1988 (Sugar) 11 1 0 .917
1989 (Fiesta) 10 2 0 .833
1990 (Blockbuster) 10 2 0 .833
1991 (Cotton) 11 2 0 .846
1992 (Orange) 11 1 0 .917
1993 (Orange) 12 1 0 .923
1994 (Sugar) 10 1 1 .864
1995 (Orange) 10 2 0 .833
1996 (Sugar) 11 1 0 .923
1997 (Sugar) 11 1 0 .923
1998 (Fiesta) 11 2 0 .846
1999 (Sugar) 12 0 0 1.000
2000 (Orange) 11 2 0 .846
2001 (Gator) 8 4 0 .667
2002 (Sugar) 9 5 0 .643
2003 (Orange) 10 3 0 .769
2004 (Gator) 9 3 0 .750
2005 (Orange) 8 5 0 .615
2006 (Emerald) 7 6 0 .538
TOTAL (31 YEARS) 293 81 4 .780

Career Total:
366-113-4 (.762) • 41 Years

About Bobby Bowden:
Born - November 8, 1929 in Birmingham, Ala.
High School - Woodlawn High, Birmingham, Ala.
College - Howard (now Samford) 1953
Collegiate Football Experience - University of Alabama (QB), freshman; Howard (QB), sophomore-senior
Graduate Degree - Peabody College
Wife - The former Julia Ann Estock
Children - Robyn, Steve, Tommy, Terry, Ginger, Jeff

Coaching Accomplishments

  • The winningest coach in major college football history with 366 career coaching victories (passed Penn State's Joe Paterno into first place with a 48-24 victory over Wake Forest in Tallahassee on October 25, 2003)
  • The only coach in the history of Division I-A football to compile 14 straight 10-win seasons (1987-2000)
  • Coached the Seminoles to consensus National Championships in 1993 and 1999
  • His 1999 National Championship team is the first in college football history to go wire-to-wire as the Associated Press' No. 1 ranked team
  • Set NCAA records with 11 consecutive bowl victories (1985-95) and 14 straight bowl trips without a loss (1982-95)
  • Ranks second all-time in bowl winning percentage with a 20-9-1 record (.672)
  • Has guided FSU to 28 bowl appearances in 31 seasons, including 25 straight
  • Since 1993, Florida State has played in the national championship game five times (1993 Orange vs. Nebraska, 1996 Sugar vs. Florida, 1998 Fiesta vs. Tennessee, 1999 Sugar vs. Virginia Tech, and 2000 Orange vs. Oklahoma)
  • Since the inception of the BCS in 1998, FSU has reached one of the BCS bowl games six times
  • Patriarch of the first father-son duo to lead Division I-A programs, let alone to lead them at the same time
  • National Citizenship Award (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) named after Bobby Bowden in 2004

    Coaching Stops
    1954-55 Assistant Football Coach/Head Track Coach at Howard (now Samford)
    1956-58 Head Football Coach and Athletic Director at South Georgia Junior College
    1959-62 Head Football Coach at Samford College
    1963-65 Assistant Coach (Receivers) at Florida State
    1966-69 Offensive Coordinator at West Virginia
    1970-75 Head Coach at West Virginia
    1976- Head Coach at Florida State

    Coaching Honors

  • 1977 Southern Independent Coach of the Year
    1979 National Coach of the Year (ABC-Chevrolet)
    1979 Southern Independent Coach of the Year
    1980 National Coach of the Year (Bobby Dodd)
    1983 Inducted - Florida Sports Hall of Fame
    1986 Inducted - Alabama Sports Hall of Fame
    1987 Region II Coach of the Year
    1991 National Coach of the Year (Walter Camp)
    1992 Neyland Trophy Winner
    1993 ACC Coach of the Year
    1996 National Coach of the Year (Home Depot)
    1997 ACC Coach of the Year
    1999 National Coach of the Year (Home Depot)
    1999 National Coach of the Decade Finalist (Home Depot)
    1999 ESPN College Team of the Decade (any sport)
    2006 Inducted Into the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame

     

    Win Date Site Opponent Score
    1 10/02/76 Tallahassee, FL Kansas State 20-10
    50 10/31/81 Tallahassee, FL Western Carolina 56-31
    63* 10/15/83 Tallahassee, FL Cincinnati 43-17
    100 11/28/87 Gainesville, FL Florida 28-14
    150 10/31/92 Charlottesville, VA Virginia 13- 3
    200 9/20/97 Clemson, SC Clemson 35-28

    *Surpassed former FSU Head Coach Bill Peterson (1960-70) as the all-time winningest coach at Florida State.

    Bowden Milestone Victories Overall

    Win Date Site Opponent Score
    1 09/19/59 Maryville, TN Maryville 14- 0
    50 10/07/72 Morgantown, WV William & Mary 49-34
    100 09/29/79 Blacksburg, VA Virginia Tech 17-10
    150 09/21/85 Tallahassee, FL Memphis State 19-10
    200 10/27/90 Tallahassee, FL Louisiana State 42- 3
    250 09/02/95 Orlando, FL Duke 70-26
    275 10/11/97 Durham, NC Duke 51-27
    300 10/23/99 Clemson, SC Clemson 17-14

    Lombardi Coach of the Year Award

    (Text of Speech by the daughter of Vince Lombardi at the presentation of the Lombardi Coach of the Year Trophy to Bobby Bowden.)

    Bobby Bowden is not only one of the most competitive coaches in the game of college football, he is a legend. Like my dad, he has a great love of X's and O's. Running a football team is no different from running any other kind of organization — an army, a political party, a business. The principles are still the same. The task of motivation, preparation, discipline, and teamwork are the real X's and O's of leadership.

    There are many words that describe coach Bowden. Not just his wins, losses or coaching records, but his respect, sincerity, class, his honesty, charisma, charm and humor. These are what make him a great man and coach.

    Bobby Bowden has been to 21 bowl games since his arrival at Florida State University, a string of 18 in a row in 25 years as head coach. His credentials: friendly, outgoing, family man and devoted christian, love of God, people, and his country, and love of his job.

    It's an honor and privilege to present the Vince Lombardi College Coach of the Year award to an outstanding football coach, Bobby Bowden.

    His incredible success as a coach makes him one of college football's most successful coaches with a 761% winning average. He has taken one of the worst football teams in the country and made them into national champions. The only school in the history of college football to finish among the top four in 13 straight seasons.

    It's a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That's why they're there to compete. They know the rules and objectives when they get in the game. The objective is to win — fairly, squarely, decently, by the rules — but to win.

    Coach Bowden's commitment to excellence, his strong leadership, his honorable beliefs on and off the football field, and his discipline and decency, have gained him respect everywhere he goes — on the football field and in his community equally. Coach Bowden knows the rules.

    Coach Bowden, I am honored — as is the entire Lombardi family — to present you with the 1999 Vince Lombardi College Coach of the Year award. Congratulations!

    Coaching Accomplishments • The only coach in the history of Division I-A football to compile 13 straight 10-win seasons (1987-present)…Won his first national championship in 1993 while setting a school record for victories in a season with 12…Nation's second-winningest active head coach with 304, which ranks fifth all-time (Division IA)…Holds the NCAA record with 11 consecutive bowl victories and 14 straight bowl trips without a loss…With a 17-5-1 record in bowl games, his winning percentage of .761 is the best mark, all-time, in college football…Owns the fifth-best winning percentage (.779) among active coaches with a career record of 304-85-4…Has guided FSU to 21 bowl appearances in 24 years, including 17 straight, with 14 "New Year's Day" bowl trips…His 231 wins at Florida State over the last 24 years are more than the previous seven FSU head coaches compiled in over 29 seasons…Patriarch of the only father-son duo ever to lead Division I-A programs, let alone to lead them at the same time.

    Florida State NEWS

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