Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Legendary Bobby Bowden passes away 'taking as many people as he can to Heaven with him'

Legendary Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden passed away Sunday at the age of 91.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

On July 21, his family announced he had been diagnosed with a terminal medical condition but did not disclose the specific condition.

“My father passed away peacefully early this morning with all six of his children and my mother here by his side,” Bowden’s son, Terry, said in a statement. “I couldn’t have asked for a better personal mentor than my father. He was a wonderful husband and father, who relied on his strong Christian faith to provide the foundation for his life. I also was fortunate to be raised by a football coach who had a reputation for coaching the right way his entire career. He was admired by everyone who played for him or coached against him.”

Bowden pointed to his faith as the source of his peace when the diagnosis was made public.

“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,” he 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 spent 34 seasons as the head coach at Florida State, winning 12 ACC championships and two national championships (1993 and 1999). The Seminoles finished in the top five of the final AP poll for a record 14 consecutive seasons (1987-2000) under his leadership. He was also the head coach at West Virginia from 1970 to 1975.

Faith was a key component of the way Bowden conducted himself throughout his coaching career.

“Every morning, 5:30, 5:00, he gets up, gets his Bible, gets all his study books and study guides, usually four or five of them, and then he goes through the process, every morning, of reading,” Bobby’s son Tommy said of his dad on the Sports Spectrum Podcast last month. “A lot of people read the Bible. I think those programs of reading the Bible in one year are good. The first time I did it several years ago, it took me about five years, I think, to really study it. But he would do that and to this day he still does it.”

Being outspoken about his faith set an example for his players and helped lead some of them to Christ, including former Georgia and Miami coach Mark Richt.

Richt spoke on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2019 about giving his life to Christ, which occurred when Richt served as a coach under Bowden at Florida State. In 1986, after the tragic death of offensive lineman Pablo Lopez, who was killed by a gunshot, Bowden talked to his hurting players and staff about the Gospel.

“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.”

Richt visited Bowden’s office the next day and received Christ as his Savior. His perspective on life soon shifted. “My goal became to try to live a life that was pleasing to God,” he said.

Tommy told Sports Spectrum the main reason his dad coached for as long as he did was because he believed it was the most effective way for him to spread the Gospel. Being on national television regularly gave Bowden an opportunity to be a witness for Christ for the millions of people who watched his team every week in the fall.

“He wanted to coach as long as he could to advance the Kingdom of God,” Tommy said. “He’s 91, and he’s going down, taking as many people as he can to Heaven with him.”

RELATED STORIES:
— Legendary Bobby Bowden announces terminal medical condition, finds peace in faith
— Legendary FSU football coach Bobby Bowden in hospital due to COVID-19
— Former coach Mark Richt reveals Parkinson’s disease, focuses on ‘future glory of Heaven’
— Former Georgia, Miami coach Mark Richt ‘doing fine’ after heart attack
— Mark Richt might still be coaching had he listened to ‘what God has to say about rest’
— Bobby Bowden defends coach fired for praying: ‘I’m proud of him’
— Florida State legend Bobby Bowden led Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt to Jesus