Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Former FSU coach Bobby Bowden announces terminal medical condition, finds peace in faith

Legendary Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden is preparing for the next battle in his life, this time against a terminal medical condition. Bowden and his family revealed the diagnosis in a statement, but did not disclose the specific disease.

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Bowden, 91, said his faith helps him avoid being afraid of what lies ahead.

“I’ve always tried to serve God’s purpose for my life, on and off the field, and I am prepared for what is to come,” Bowden said in a statement released by Florida State. “My wife Ann and our family have been life’s greatest blessing. I am at peace.”

Bowden battled COVID-19 in October.

Throughout his time at Florida State, Bowden demonstrated his prowess as a leader. After Bowden took the helm in 1976, Florida State won 12 ACC Championships, in addition to two national titles in 1993 and 1999. Prior to his time at Florida State, Bowden also coached West Virginia from 1970-1975.

Because of his impact on collegiate football in 34 years of coaching, Bowden was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Florida State officials spoke highly of the impact Bowden had on the football program following the announcement of his diagnosis.

“Coach Bowden built a football dynasty and raised the national profile of Florida State University, and he did it with dignity, class and a sense of humor,” university president John Thrasher said in the statement. “Although his accomplishments on the field are unmatched, his legacy will go far beyond football. His faith and family have always come first, and he is an incredible role model for his players and fans alike. He is beloved by the FSU family.”

Faith has long played a large part in how Bowden conducts his life. Through his coaching career, he helped lead others to Christ, including Mark Richt, who coached the Georgia Bulldogs and Miami Hurricanes.

Richt spoke with Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2019 about giving his life to Christ, which occurred when Richt served under Bowden at Florida State. In 1986, offensive lineman Pablo Lopez was killed by a gunshot. Bowden used this horrible situation as a way to bring the Gospel to the hurting players and staff.

“I believe there’s a Heaven and there’s a hell, and God created us and He loves us,” Richt recalled Bowden telling the team. “And we all fall short of the glory of God because we sin and we can’t meet God’s standard of perfection, but that’s why He gave us His Son Jesus to live that perfect life and be that perfect sacrifice for our sin. If we would just accept that gift of salvation from His Son Jesus, then we can be saved from the judgment that God has for sin and we can live in paradise with God.”

Following this speech by Bowden, Richt met with Bowden and Richt accepted Christ as his Savior.

Richt recently announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but, like his coach from years ago, he choses to prioritize his Heavenly home over his earthly one.

“We’re here on Earth, it’s temporal. Heaven, it’s forever, Heaven is everlasting,” Richt told ESPN this week. “And the truth of the matter is, we’re all going to live somewhere forever, rather than live for eternity. It’s just a matter of where we’re going to go. So that’s why I’m so thankful to coach [Bowden].”

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