May 8, 2021

Florida Icon

Icon: Bobby Bowden

Head football coach, Florida State University, age 76

Cynthia Barnett | 8/1/2006

Bobby Bowden
Bobby Bowden [Photo: Kelly LaDuke]
I took this job here not with the idea of staying. I felt like we'd eventually move up to Alabama or Auburn. But we got here and started being successful. We've been in the same house for 30 doggone years.

I've never sat down in my life and said, 'Oh boy, I'm gonna retire in two years,' or 'oh boy, I'm gonna retire in five years.' I just live day to day.

Joe Paterno I have known for years, played against him for years. There for a while it was Joe and me and LaVelle Edwards and Bear Bryant. Joe and I are the only two left of the old group. We're fairly close. Whoever ends up No. 1 is gonna be there a long time. It could take somebody 30 years to catch up. So am I ate up with that? No. If it ends up on me, good. If it doesn't, I won't lose a minute of sleep.

I'm a great studier of history. I love just plain history. I love the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, the Babylonian. I love to read that stuff and go over there and see it.

It's fun moving up to the top. But it is murder to stay there. You got two people that are very negative: The people that can't stand to lose, and the people that bet money. If you don't win by the spread, they're mad.

I was named after my mother's daddy, Robert Cleckler. He built courthouses in Georgia and Alabama. His wife had died when I was a baby. When the Depression hit, he lost every penny he had. So he come to live with us. He and I shared the same bedroom.

When I was 13, I got sick with rheumatic fever, and I had to go to bed for a year. Back in those days that was a dreaded thing. I had to drop out of school, couldn't play nothing. Couldn't lift anything. Couldn't get out of bed to go to the bathroom. I had the bedpan deal. It was awful. I sat there for a year, and all I had was the radio and the World War II news.

I took up the trombone since I couldn't play football. Played in the band my first two years in high school. Then we went to a heart specialist; there were very few back in those days. He said, 'Your heart is completely healed, and if you want to play football, you go play football.' So that's where the football started.

I first started coaching in the early '50s. Back in those days, a coach was a dictator. He said go do this, go do that, and if you didn't do it, he'd kick you off the team. You can't play that game anymore. Kids don't respond to that. You have to explain it to them. You've got to sell them on it.

Out of 85 guys on our team, we had eight drafted. One out of eight are going to make it, but they all think they are. Even if he makes it, he might get his knee torn up the next year. He needs that degree.

This is very important what I'm fixin' to say. I've been coaching 53 years. Have the players changed? My answer is no, they haven't. Their parents changed. The parents quit raising them. Fifty years ago I guess our divorce rate was two out of 10. Now it's seven out of 10. That means these kids are coming up without daddies and without families.

I lost my mother, and I expected to lose her. I lost my daddy, and I expected to lose him. My wife lost her mother, expected. Her daddy, expected. Now losing a grandchild was a shock. That's where your faith in God comes in. I believe in life after death, as firmly as anything in the world. [My grandson] Bowden was saved. His daddy was saved. I know because I had talked to them. We know that they are with God and feeling no pain.

Ann was 16. I was 19. I was a freshman at the University of Alabama, and Ann was a high school senior. We been dating a couple years, and we decided to get married.Now the reason we decided to get married, if you don't mind me saying, we both did not believe in sex before marriage. Yet we were getting pretty doggone close. So we run off and got married.

Anytime my secretary puts an article in here that's really negative, as soon as I see it, I throw it away. No sense getting upset and mad. I don't need that.

You go up to Michigan and they have the biggest stadium in the country, 107,000 people, and it ain't as loud as it is in Florida. These people just love their football. I think a lot of it dates back because the North won the war and got all the results of it. We got nothin'. We got football.

I would have gone into the military. Would I have made it to the top, to general? I would have been striving for that.

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