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As transparent as Bobby Bowden has been through a long series of books and countless articles and interviews, he remains an intensely private man. Bowden has learned how to balance life in the media glare since he first became a collegiate football Head Coach fifty years ago this season.
The picture book of Bobby Bowdenís life has been writ large in the public eye for half a century. But here are nine selections from among the more obscure snapshots of Bobby Bowdenís life and personality, from the back pages of that album.

He Plays Piano
During one of our long dark night drives on the annual Bobby Bowden Tour he made offhand mention of having worked out a musical arrangement for a song he liked. I had seen a piano in his home but I didnít know he played.
ďDid you take lessons as a kid?Ē I asked. He said his mother had paid for lessons. ďBut I hated it,Ē he laughed, and said the lessons didnít last long. ďI didnít like the lessons but I liked the piano; I just learned to play by ear.Ē
I asked if anyone else in his family played. ďNaw, just me,Ē he said.
ĎJust meí is an insight into Bowdenís private personality. Though almost constantly surrounded by friends, staff, family, clouds of grandchildren, he remains a surprisingly solitary figure. He goes his own way, keeps his own counsel and spends more time by himself that you might imagine.

He Made a Record in 1984
We took a fan bus from our hotel to the Orange Bowl last January, and the tape of Seminole music from the overhead speakers included an obscure melody I recognized. I turned to the fans next to me and asked if they knew who was singing that catchy, lilting tune. They shook their heads no, but they liked the song.
Marvin Goldstein is a musical treasure. He received his advanced degrees in Music from Florida State and has been a scholar in residence in Tel Aviv and Salzburg, Austria. It was Goldstein who wrote the music and words to a pretty good song called ďThe Seminoles of FSUĒ, and somehow convinced then University President Bernie Sliger and Coach Bowden to record it together.
Those were more casual days for Florida State, and the coach and the president were sold on the idea that a novelty record would help publicize our program. Bowden has an excellent voice and sang lead. Sliger kept a cold beer nearby for inspiration, and gave a credible performance at baritone.
The record was made as a 45 rpm, as well as a cassette tape. Today, Goldstein does have it available on CD and the music is not bad. His e-mail address is:

His Most Memorable Lunch Conversation
On one of his vacation trips to Germany, Bowden enjoyed a private lunch with the mayor of Stuttgart, Manfred Rommel. One year older than Bowden, Manfred Rommel was only 15 years old when he served as part of an anti-aircraft crew near his hometown. He was at home the day in 1944 when Hitlerís henchmen came to call on his famous father, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the ďDesert FoxĒ.
Bowden always carried a military historianís fascination for Rommel, for his renowned tactical brilliance, for his ability to inspire his troops and to make best use of limited resources.
The Field Marshall called his son into an upstairs room and said, ďManfred, within the quarter of an hour I will be dead.Ē Rommel had been part of a conspiracy of senior officers to assassinate Hitler. He told his young son that he would get into dark green staff car with the two German generals who had come for him, and that he would swallow a poison pill they had given him.
In return for cooperation in his own suicide, Rommel would be given a heroís funeral with full honors, his wife and sons and his military aides would be spared.
Manfred Rommel still lives in Stuttgart, a city he served as mayor for more than twenty years. He and Bowden occasionally correspond.

His Favorite Song
His favorite song is Three Coins in the Fountain.

He Taught His Sons to Chew Tobacco
The Bowdens raised six children, four boys and two girls. On another of our long drives, he mentioned that he and his boys had chewed tobacco together when they were growing up. He was laughing at me because I always cringe when he chews tobacco in my car, and I told him I was surprised that heíd encourage the boys to embrace the habit.
ďWell, itís tough raising boys, and I didnít want them to drink or smoke and some other things I didnít want them to get involved with,Ē he said. ďBut, dad-gum-it, boys have got to do something wrong, so weíd sneak off behind the house away from Ann, and weíd break off a chaw together.Ē

He Was Elected President of His College Fraternity, Twice
This obscure fact is interesting only in that it leads to other glimpses of Bowdenís remarkable talent for leadership. He and Ann attended Howard College, now Samford University, in Birmingham. Bobby Bowden was already a married man and a father, yet he played football, baseball and ran track for the Howard College Bulldogs. He was elected captain of the football team and won All-American honors at quarterback. The college faculty nominated Bowden for membership in Whoís Who in American Colleges and Universities in recognition of his academic and athletic leadership.
Itís far too early to give much consideration to it now, but when the time comes for us to choose a new coach for the Seminoles, it is instructive to know that before he arrived here in 1976, Bobby Bowden had been a successful, winning Head Coach at three other collegiate football programs. The genes of a thoroughbred are usually evident from the earliest days.

Heíll Leave Tallahassee Immediately Upon Retirement
Bobby and Ann Bowden intend to leave Tallahassee immediately after he retires. For some time the family has been assembling a compound of homes in the western Panhandle. Bowden will likely never leave Florida. ďI like the heat, canít stand the cold,Ē he says.
However, his specific inclination to leave Tallahassee has its roots in his arrival here thirty-one years ago. At that time the Seminole football program itself was less than thirty years old, yet no fewer than five former Florida State Head Football Coaches were still living in Tallahassee!
Coaches Ed Williamson (1947), Don Veller (1948-52), Tom Nugent (1953-58), Bill Peterson (1960-70) and Darrell Mudra (1974-75) all made their homes here. ďThey were all great fellows,Ē says Bowden, ďbut every time the newspapers or the radio and TV needed an interview or a quote about the Seminoles, they called one of our former coaches who lived here.Ē
Bowden stresses that he felt all those men gave him support, but he does not intend to be the next go-to guy for the media. It will be tough enough for Bowdenís replacement without living in the long shadow of the legend. By the time a new coach is on board, the Bowdenís will be gone. ďI probably wonít even come back for a year, maybe longer.Ē

The Twilight Zone Connection
Bowden has always said heíd rather be lucky than good. Heís fortunate that luck won out because a great coach, even the winningest coach of all time, would not have survived had not luck intervened in a pair of close calls. One such incident in a lifetime is unusual; twice creeps into the realm of downright eerie.
When he was offensive coordinator at West Virginia Bowden was offered the job as Head Coach at down-state rival Marshall University. He considered but turned down the offer, so Marshall hired their second choice, a young Marshall assistant coach named Rick Tolley.
A plane carrying the Wichita State team had crashed just the month before in October, so a cautious Marshall administration chartered a larger, safer plane for their trip to East Carolina. In the dark and rain and fog of November 14, 1970, the DC-9 crashed into a West Virginia mountainside. Coach Tolley along with all 75 players, coaches and fans on board were killed instantly.
In his fourth season at FSU, Bowden took his Seminole team to play LSU in Baton Rouge. He had originally expected his coaching stay in Tallahassee to last no more than three-to-five years, and after some confidential discussions LSU sent him a contract and the offer to be a Head Coach in the SEC.
He tucked the contract into his desk, and decided to let the outcome of the game against the Tigers determine the issue. Later he said, ďFSU had the better team. I figured if we could go into Death Valley and beat the Tigers, as we should, Florida State might have the potential to be a major player in the south.Ē If not, then he and Ann would go to Baton Rouge where heíd take on the task of returning LSU to their earlier glories.
The game was close; FSU won by less than a touchdown and the clock ran out with LSU driving. Bobby Bowden stayed and joined his future to that of the Seminoles.
Unsuccessful at luring Bobby Bowden, LSU hired a young coaching phenomenon named Bo Rein at the end of that 1979 season. On the morning of January 10, 1980 Rein climbed into the twin-engine Cessna Conquest for the 40-minute hop from Baton Rouge to Shreveport to see a recruit.
The only people on board were the pilot and Rein. Instead of following the flight plan and heading west toward Shreveport, the Cessna drifted east and eventually vanished into the ocean off the coast of North Carolina. No wreckage or remains were ever recovered.

Favorite Quote
The 18-year-old Robert C. Bowden who graduated from Woodlawn High School in 1948 was asked to provide the yearbook with his favorite quote from classic lore. He chose the lines Tennyson attributed to Ulysses: ďOne equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.Ē
As was the custom at Woodlawn, each student was asked to provide a favorite quote. A young sophomore named Julia Ann Estock selected the very same lines from Tennyson. Within a year she would become Ann Bowden.
7/31 5:51 PM | IP: Logged I knew about his singing, they play it from time to time and lets just say, the worlds glad he stayed a coach! BB must have 1000 stories with his rich life, thanks for sharing 9.

Posted on 7/31 6:03 PM | IP: Logged

Great post JMG. I love knowing about this great man.

Posted on 7/31 6:08 PM | IP: Logged

thanks JMG

Posted on 7/31 7:09 PM | IP: Logged

Great piece. Thanks. We love BB!

Posted on 7/31 7:35 PM | IP: Logged


Posted on 7/31 8:52 PM | IP: Logged

One other thing about Bobby. When he arrived in Tallahassee, he immediately hit the ground and started recruiting. He was given a gold 1976 Mercedes 450 SEL sedan and burned up the back roads of South Georgia and South Alabama as well as Florida, trying to get recruits to come to FSU.
In his first two months, he "earned" somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 or 9 speeding tickets. Course, those were in Georgia and Alabama, since they didn't take so well to a fast talking ol boy in a fancy car with Florida plates.
When he came to town with his new staff, every Realtor was jumping straight up and down to sell each of the new coaches a house. Bowden didn't want to offend potential supporters of the program by using just one Realtor. Each coach was assigned a different agency who had at least one Booster in the fold, so that no one would feel slighted.

Yours truly sold one of those coaches a house.

Going back to the Marshall story, the movie "Marshall" was shot this spring in and around Atlanta, and will star Matthew Fox and Matthew McConnaughey.

Fox plays Red Dawson, who stayed behind after the game to drive up and visit a recruit, thus sparing his life. Red had been a star on the 64 Seminole team, the first to beat the gators. He had stayed at FSU and coached freshmen, including his little brother Rhett, before going up to Marshall. I'll never forget coming back to Cash Hall the night of the crash, and seeing a huge note tacked to Rhett's door saying -
RHETT - RED WAS NOT ON THE PLANE. What a horrible time it was, thinking that he had died. He had been one of my boyfriend's - husband's - freshman coaches, and had meant a lot to him.
Rhett was recently voted into the FSU Hall of Fame.

See how these stories weave in and out and create something called tradition? And how our past - pre-Bowden - weaves into our present? I think it's heritage. And we've got it.

Posted on 7/31 9:43 PM | IP: Logged

Wow, I will go to bed knowing alot more!

Thanks for sharing!

Posted on 7/31 10:15 PM | IP: Logged

JMG and Goldmom thanks for sharing.

Posted on 8/1 7:02 AM | IP: Logged

Originally posted by SeminoleTom:
JMG and Goldmom thanks for sharing.

I'm just a conduit, Charlie is the MAN.

goldmom is part of the heritage, I'm a newbie.

Posted on 8/1 7:10 AM | IP: Logged

Having a man like Bobby is a rare commodity indeed. Thanks for sharing.

Posted on 8/1 7:41 AM | IP: Logged

Great stories....I could listen/read stuff like that all day long. Makes you appreciate what we have as a head coach.

Posted on 8/1 9:16 AM | IP: Logged

Yes, thank you to both of you, JMG and Goldmom, for sharing this treasury. All too often we get lost in our pigskin fervor and forget the human side of our coaches and team, let alone think about the heritage behind the team. However, this thread will be wasted floating downward and getting buried in the TCCL. It needs to be pinned to the top of both the TC and the TCCL, and kept there for all to read and enjoy from here on out, without coming off.

Posted on 8/1 3:56 PM | IP: Logged

As always a great read by Charlie. Did not know about the LSU decision being determined by the game itself. Thanks also to goldmom, such insights are great and will help keep us grounded in our tradition/heritage that has become Florida State!

Posted on 8/1 4:42 PM | IP: Logged

Great thread JMG/Charlie. Goldmom, thanks for adding in the part about Red and Rhett. Great stories all, and Coach Bowden is a major reason we have so many rich traditions and lore in only fifty years or so of football. This should remind us too of the role fate plays in shaping lives and football history as well.

This post was edited on 8/1 10:06 PM by Doc1936

Posted on 8/1 10:01 PM | IP: Logged

JMG, an excellent and fun read! You do that sort of thing every now and then.

Goldmom, thanks for the memories. I had a class with Red Dawson, Fred Belitnikoff, and Henry Farrell(or was it Farrell Henry? Can't remember for sure), in the winter of '63. Dr. Vernon Fox was the professor. What a class! These guys were crazy. I had forgotten about Red's connection to the Marshall disaster. I was already gone when Rhett came to FS.

Posted on 8/1 11:45 PM | IP: Logged

awesome read. its nice to see a side of bobby that isnt entirely football related. great read

Posted on 8/3 12:55 AM | IP: Logged

JMG and goldmom, thanks for all the great info. Exceptional reading!

Posted on 8/3 12:36 PM | IP: Logged

Thanks for the info. It is nice to read something positive.

Posted on 8/3 1:16 PM | IP: Logged

Originally posted by Hammerhead2:
JMG and goldmom, thanks for all the great info. Exceptional reading!


Posted on 8/3 7:28 PM | IP: Logged

Very cool! Thanks JMG and Goldmom.

Posted on 8/3 8:24 PM | IP: Logged

I enjoyed reading that thanks!

Posted on 8/6 5:54 PM | IP: Logged

JMG -thanks, as always, for the extra look into the Seminole lore and Coach Bowden...

Posted on 8/9 12:54 PM | IP: Logged

Wow there were a few tidbits I was not aware of. Thanks for sharing JMG>

Posted on 8/10 3:28 PM | IP: Logged

I had a close call with death too. I was walking under the stadium to get the my car parked near the Jackson Bluff parking lot. A guy in what must of been a souped up golf cart (he was flying) came out of nowhere and came ever so close to hitting me. Bobby swerved, said "sorry son" and roared off into the sunset.

I remember thinking how cool it would have been to get run over by a living legend, and if I had survived, how nice watching the games inluxury box seats would have been!

Thanks for the info.

Posted on 8/13 11:51 PM | IP: Logged

I read one of Bobby's books over the off season. If you have not done so it will let you know that he knows what is going on. He might not act like it, but he is the fox in the hen house.

I have never met Bobby, but if I get a chance it will be a life long memory. Closest I came was at the "Wharf" one night eating and him and Ann came in to eat. I did not want to get between him and his ribs and chicken. Don't mess with somebody while their eating. I wonder how many meals he has ever eaten out without someone coming up to him? Not many would be my guess.

go noles...

Posted on 8/14 12:25 AM | IP: Logged


One of the great things about this place is the chance to chat with FSU history. We need a Bio sheet for some of the HOF posters.


Posted on 8/20 10:56 PM | IP: Logged

Originally posted by seminoleshoe:
I read one of Bobby's books over the off season. If you have not done so it will let you know that he knows what is going on. He might not act like it, but he is the fox in the hen house.

I have never met Bobby, but if I get a chance it will be a life long memory. Closest I came was at the "Wharf" one night eating and him and Ann came in to eat. I did not want to get between him and his ribs and chicken. Don't mess with somebody while their eating. I wonder how many meals he has ever eaten out without someone coming up to him? Not many would be my guess.

go noles...

I've read all of his books and been lucky enough to have met him or heard him speak on many occasions. Anyone who thinks he's dim is a fool. He devours books and his wit is as sharp as ever.

Posted on 8/21 10:24 AM | IP: Logged

Excellent stories guys.

Goldmom, you are a great resource for this board and representative for our University. Keep em coming.

JMG, you're good at forwarding good stuff written by others.


Posted on 8/21 2:24 PM | IP: Logged

Breakin' off a "chaw" is great stuff!

Posted on 8/21 3:39 PM | IP: Logged

Thanks JMG.....And Goldmom too. I hope someday to meet Coach Bowden and take a picture with him to put on my wall with all of my Seminole artwork. He truly is a GREAT MAN!

Posted on 8/25 11:22 PM | IP: Logged

Thanks for the stories and background on agreat man and family.

Just shows you what a well-rounded, honorable, legend we have in BB.

I don't think there are many (if any) out there that can match (and certainly can't replace) his character, football knowledge and leadership!


Posted on 8/28 4:28 PM | IP: Logged

Great thread, guys, thanks! Too bad some of the TC posters won't get to see it.

Posted on 9/10 2:26 PM | IP: Logged

What a great read about a great man. Thanks for sharing his life experiences. It makes you really sad to see such a good man having to go through what he is going through today.. Doesn't seem fair.

Posted on 9/19 11:17 PM | IP: Logged

The trailer for the movie "We are Marshall" is on the internet. In the trailer they talk about making the movie. Matthew Fox is playing Red and they show him actually talking to Red. Red is wearing an FSU golf shirt. Pretty Cool.

Posted on 9/22 5:08 PM | IP: Logged

That was interesting, great read!

Posted on 9/25 10:25 PM | IP: Logged

WOW this was real good to read they always say that music is a good way to train a young mind and help one to develop discipline.

Posted on 10/29 6:15 PM | IP: Logged

Wow! what a pleasure it is to read more about the life of this remarkable character. And I mean character in the most positive sense of the word. It makes it harder to endure some of the outrageous criticism by people who aren't worthy to carry his jock.
FSU is sooo blessed to have him. Thanks Bobby.
Now lets beat the gators!

Posted on 11/24 6:43 PM | IP: Logged

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