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Bobby Bowden: 500 And Counting
Bobbby Bowden is a legend in the coaching profession.

Bobbby Bowden is a legend in the coaching profession.

Oct. 1, 2008

He keeps a black sharpie in his pocket at all times ready to give an autograph to an adoring fan.

He still throws his hat up into the cheering crowd as he is leaving the field after a Seminole victory.

While many coaches these days try to dodge fans, Bobby Bowden doesn't. He never has and he never will. That's just who he is.

"I carry a sharpie with me to sign autographs," Bowden said. "I don't mind it at all but I have ruined some of my suits. Somebody will hand me something and the next thing I know, I have stripes all up and down my suit."

Although he coached his 500th career game against Colorado and in his 43rd season as a head coach at the collegiate level, Bowden still has the enthusiasm of a first-year coach. He just doesn't get caught up in the fact that he is major college football's second-winningest coach or that against Colorado he became just the third coach in major college football history to ever coach 500 games in his career.

"Football is a game where you can't look back, you've got to look ahead," Bowden said. "I'm still coaching and I'm still concerned about the next team and I still know that I could lose and that keeps you from looking back at anything you've already done.

"I continue to coach because I love working with the boys and I love the challenge of trying to win, trying to build a team. I think it renews you every year because every year when you start off, you're undefeated. If the season never ended and just went continuous, then it would get kind of boring but every year you're undefeated and have a chance to have another great year and that keeps you enthused."

Bowden's path to college football greatness began in a challenging way but is a truly wonderful example of turning a negative into a positive. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Bowden spent a portion of his childhood in bed, sick because when he was 13 years old, he was diagnosed with rheumatic fever. After a six month hospital stay, Bowden was confined to his bed at home for just over a year with nothing more than his imagination to pass the time. It was listening to World War II reports on the radio that began Bowden's interest in the war, an interest he still has to this day. It was also around this time that his love for football increased, as he would listen to University of Alabama football on Saturday mornings.

But perhaps more important than his growing fascination in history and football was what Bowden learned about the appreciation for life. Because of this experience, Bowden had his priorities in order at a very young age, which is a direct correlation to his longevity in college football.

"At a young age, I realized how important health was," Bowden said, "because I was always active in football, baseball, basketball. Then all of the sudden, I couldn't play. I couldn't even go to school. So I learned the importance of good health very early."

Bowden's list of coaching accomplishments is truly remarkable but the admiration and respect people, especially his players, have for him goes well beyond the wins, the losses and the numerous accolades. "What Coach Bowden has meant to me has been more than just a coach," former Seminole Terrell Buckley said. "He's been kind of like a father figure in the sense of consistency with some humility along the way and it shows that life creates ups and downs but it still doesn't have to change your character as a person, as a man and as a Christian.

"It's amazing that Coach Bowden is coaching his 500th game but what it shows is that he has always had life outside of football, outside of his job and that he obviously hasn't gotten burnt out. All coaches need to ask him to look at the blue print because he has it on how to maintain and continue to have success in a business as volatile as head coaching is."

Bowden attributes much of his success to his coaching staff and players over the years but his ability to keep things in perspective as also contributed to what he's been able to accomplish. "I've just always tried to keep my priorities in order and that's God, family and then football," Bowden said. "As people grow older, they still want to do things and the mind says yes but the body says `no, you can't do it' and that's how it is with coaches. You might still want to coach but your body just won't do it and I've always said that the day I lose my health, then it's all over. My body still says yes, it still say's go."

NOTABLES
• Induction into the College Football Hall of Fame December 5, 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.

• 14 straight top five finishes in the AP poll from 1987-2000. During that run FSU was 152-18-1 and captured national championships in 1993 and 1999. In 1999 the Seminoles became the first squad to ever go wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the AP poll. FSU also played for the title three other times during that span and since 1993 no team in the FBS has played for more national titles than FSU.

• Bowden has won 12 ACC Championships since FSU joined the conference in 1992. No other school in any BCS conference has won as many conference titles since 1992 as Bowden's Seminoles. Included among those 12 conference titles is the inaugural ACC Championship Game victory in 2005. Over the past 16 years since Florida State joined the Atlantic Coast Conference, FSU is 108-21. The Seminoles won 100 games faster than any team in conference history and also set the league record for consecutive victories. • Under Bowden's guidance, FSU has not only produced great teams but great players as well. Two Seminoles, Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke, have won the Heisman Trophy, 24 of his players have been named consensus All-Americans, three of his QB's have won the Johnny Unitas Award and two have won the Thorpe Award, the Butkus Award, the Davey O'Brien Award and the Lombardi Award.

• Known for the man and not just the coach, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes honored Bowden in 2004 when they presented the first of what is now a yearly award in Bowden's name, The National Bobby Bowden Award, honoring one collegefootball player for his achievements on the field, in the classroom and in the community. The award is presented each year prior to the Bowl Championship Series' national title game.

• In November 2004, by an act of the 2000 session of the Legislature of the State of Florida, Florida State renamed the field at Doak Campbell Stadium as Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, erected a bronze statue of his likeness, and unveiled a three story stainedglass window in his honor. Bobby Bowden Field was officially dedicated on November 20, 2004 before the annual game with arch rival the University of Florida.

MILESTONE GAMES

Game #100
October 24, 197 • Morgantown, WV
West Virginia 10, Virginia Tech 7

In Coach Bowden's last season as the head coach, the 1975 West Virginia Mountaineers football team completed the regular season with an 8-3 record. They won the peach bowl game against NC State, to finish 9-3. They finished with a ranking of 17/20.

Game #200
September 15, 1984 • Lawrence, KS
Florida State 42, Kansas 16

Bruce Heggie returned a blocked punt seven yards for a touchdown and Joe Wessel set up another score by dropping Kansas punter Tom Becker on the Kansas 15 as Florida State scored two touchdowns in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter. In Coach Bowden's 9th season at FSU, he led the Seminoles to a 7-3-2 record.

Game #300
October 3, 1992 • Coral Gables, FL
Miami 19, Florida State 16

The Seminoles had revenge on their minds when they entered the Orange Bowl to face the topranked Miami Hurricanes. The previous year, FSU lost to UM when a last-second field goal sailed wide right. In 1992, the Seminoles hoped to atone for that miss but the Hurricanes, playing at home where theyu had not lost in 47 games, had other ideas. In the end, FSU suffered a case of "deja vu" when Dan Mowrey's game-tying field goal went wide right as time expired. Bowden led FSU to an 11-1 record and a No. 2 ranking in his 17th year in Tallahassee.

Game #400
October 14, 2000 • Tallahassee, FL
Florida State 63, Duke 14

Chris Weinke threw for a school-record 536 yards and five touchdowns as No. 7 Florida State earned a 63-14 victory over Duke. Weinke picked apart Duke's defense, throwing to 10 receivers for 446 yards and four touchdowns by halftime as the Seminoles built a 42-0 lead. Bowden led the Seminoles to an 11-2 record and to the national championship game in his 25th season with Florida State. FSU finished the season ranked No. 5.

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