HOW BOBBY BOWDEN
FORGED A FOOTBALL DYNASTY
by Mike Freeman
Bowden is the definitive biography of one of the greatest college football coaches of all time, Bobby Bowden, and the first family of football. Journalist Mike Freeman provides an in-depth and insightful look inside the life and mind of the iconic Florida State University coach and family man. Sweeping and emotional, Bowden not only highlights Bobby’s gridiron glory but also chronicles the family members’ very human events, including tragic deaths, criminal indictments, and loss of jobs and fortunes.
He is a giant among coaches, a Hall of Famer with a legacy that spans six full decades of coaching, and arguably the greatest Division I college football coach in history. And now Bobby Bowden finally has a biography that befits his stature: Bowden by award-winning journalist and author Mike Freeman.
Based on six years of research and interviews with Bowden himself, not to mention the Bowden family, former players, and opposing coaches, Bowden is the complete stunning story of the making of a legend.
Despite growing up in the segregated South and witnessing the ugly racism of the time, Bowden still developed into one of the most race-sensitive coaches in college history. When sick as a child, he listened to the radio and gained a taste for war strategy and for Alabama football games on Saturdays. He played football in high school but decided he wanted to be a coach. After years of turning around smaller football programs, and following a tumultuous but successful head coaching tenure at West Virginia University, Bowden accepted the post at Florida State University (FSU), a failing program that was regularly beaten by in-state rival University of Florida. In fact, just the year before Bowden became coach, in 1975, the president of FSU contemplated terminating the program altogether, particularly because the team had won only four games in the past three years.
What Bowden accomplished at FSU is nothing short of miraculous: twenty-one bowl wins and two national championships. And he was the only coach to secure a top-five ranking in the Associated Press polls for fourteen straight seasons. A brilliant tactician, he helped usher the pro passing game into college football, after initially doubting it could work on the college level. He has been an unrivaled recruiter, not only coaching his players but also becoming a surrogate father to many of them, all while producing thirty-one consensus All-Americans over the course of his tenure. He spawned one of the greatest rivalries in sports against the University of Miami. He trails only Penn State's Joe Paterno in career victories.
Along the way he has had to deal with family tragedies, scandals, and the rise and fall of his three sons' coaching careers. But he has been steadfast, with his good humor intact and with Ann, his wife of sixty years, at his side, raising a family of six children and now twenty-one grandchildren. As he nears the end of his career, though, the critics have their knives out, claiming, among many other things, that he has become a dinosaur who clings to his job so that he can win more games than Paterno.
This work examines the total Bowden and is the first of its kind on a one-of-a-kind coach. Poignant, blunt, and eye-opening, Bowden is a towering biography of a man who has left his mark on FSU and the game of college football.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mike Freeman is a national columnist for CBSSports.com. Previously, he covered the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and several college sports, and was an investigative and enterprise reporter for the New York Times and a columnist for the Florida Times-Union. He has also been a sports reporter, features writer, and investigative writer for the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the Dallas Morning News. Freeman is the author of three critically acclaimed books: ESPN: The Uncensored History; Bloody Sundays: Inside the Dazzling, Rough-and-Tumble World of the NFL; and Jim Brown: The Fierce Life of an American Hero. His most recent book is The All-Time Biggest Sports Jerks: And Other Goofballs, Cads, Miscreants, Reprobates, and Weirdos (Plus a Few Good Guys).
MY REVIEW/RESPONSE ABOUT "MY" COACH:
Please let me state up front I am a Florida State University alum as well as a HUGH college football fan. In my home, like many homes spread across the country, and the world, Bobby Bowden is synonymous with all that football, especially FSU football, should be. His statistics you can see in the review about the book. As a young man Bobby's interests in football began as he watched the high school team from his backyard in Birmingham, Alabama where he grew up. He played with friends and practiced as he got older with the team in high school. When attending Samford college, he watched and was a keen listener of Paul Bear Bryant, the dynamic coach of the University of Alabama. His love for the sport grew during those times and later when he played quarterback at Samford. His skills improved but so did his knowledge of the game as he grew to be a fine young man and joined different coaching staffs. He worked at South George Junior College, FSU (as an assistant), and the to West Virginia where he was sorely tested.
Coach Bowden's talent however, came in the form of a combination of things and they are the what goes into making a great coach. His vision, leadership skills, talent and that charming and magnetic personality are what gave him the strength to take the assignment at Florida State. When he returned, this time in the role of head coach, he knew his team needed special handling and he could give it to them. This was a team that had been losing so badly that the year before he went, they had considered closing the football program. Oh, are they glad they didn't as Bobby Bowden went in and after only one losing season that first year, brought Florida State University's Football program to national prominence.
Coach Bowden led the Seminole Football team to a bowl game for 26 consecutive years and has just clinched another bowl spot with a win this past week. The game is rought, but he loves it. His players are family and when he goes to their homes to recruit new young men, he tell their mothers he will care for them, nurture them, and make men of them. That is how he has recruited so many fine players over the years. He is second among active coaches for winning the most games in what had been a neck and neck tie, week by week , with Penn State's own legend, Joe "Pa" Paterno. Paterno and Bowden were the only two actively coaching men to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December of 2006. They were also presented with the Gold Medal which is the highest achievement you can receive and joined the company the likes of Eisenhower, J. F. Kennedy, and Norman Schwarzkopf. Paterno has slowly eeked ahead of Coach Bowden in the past two years as the FSU players have just not been able for some reason to connect the dots between the talent that comes in and the discipline they need to produce for him.
Bowden's players and fans (I can attest to this) adore him and his wife of 60 years, Ann. Bobby has a family of children involved with football as coaches or broadcasters or married to coaches! The university named the field at Doak Campbell Stadium after Coach Bowden in 2004. They wanted to rename the stadium after Coach but he put his foot down and said no. He does not seek accolades and yet he is one of the most sought after speakers in the country. His down home sensibilities and sense of humor, endear him to all. He has a huge grin and lives life to the fullest. He has almost reached the status of a folk hero as he is somewhat bigger than life. He continues to be a religious man and works for his church and can be found there every Sunday. He has a special interest in World War II history and is a reader all bloggers would take to heart for his enthusiasm for books. He loves to travel and if he retired tomorrow would be just fine...except for the loud weeping that would be heard across the country at the loss of our beloved coach.
Coach Bowden's words, mannerisms, boyish humor, and dedication to his players and the fans is what most people love about him the most. I have heard him say more than once that he loves football but it doesn't come first. He realizes it is just a game---a very important one, but not more important than his family and his God. This man is the real deal. He is what all of us who like to think we know him on a first name basis idolize and adore. Coach Bobby Bowden can be heard on the tape below and from that, those few of you who haven't heard him before will realize what a fine man he is and what a sad loss it will be when he does decide to take his "dad gum" hat and hang it up for good.
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