Bobby Bowden may be retired from coaching, but he’s still plenty busy.
Right now, he’s in the midst of a series of trips to speak to groups in several different towns — including the 889-resident town of Lenox in northern Cook County.
On Thursday night, Bowden, who was the football coach at Florida State from 1976-2010, was the speaker at the annual Cook County Fellowship of Christian Athletes Banquet, held at the Lenox Baptist Church.
Bowden entertained the crowd with a plethora of stories in his speech, which lasted over 35 minutes. Some were humorous — like the one where he tried to pick up a pair of shoes that he’d left at a shoe store in Douglas seven years earlier (”They’ll be ready on Thursday,” the store owner told him) — and some were serious.
But he made sure to say plenty about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization he has supported for over 50 years. Bowden speaks at a large number of FCA functions every year.
“They’re so valuable,” Bowden said. “These boys need leadership. We’re trying to get them to be role models. I think it’s so valuable. I speak all the time.
“I know it does (make a difference). I coached for 57 years. I coached thousands of boys. Half of them don’t have daddies. They need a daddy. The FCA is trying to help fill that role. They’re trying to get the coaches to (promote FCA). They’re trying to get the boys to be role models, for your children (and) my grandchildren. It’s a great cause.”
Lenox was stop No. 3 on a multi-stop trip for Bowden and his wife Ann. On Wednesday, Bowden spoke at two places in Illinois. On Thursday night, they flew to Akron, Ohio so that Bowden could speak at his son Terry’s camp (Terry Bowden became the head coach at the University of Akron last December, after three seasons as the head coach at North Alabama). Then he’ll fly to McDonough to speak. Then it’s on to Raleigh, Miss. (where Bowden’s grandfather built the courthouse many years ago), then he’ll go to Sarasota, Fla.
Bowden is a college football legend. He coached for 57 years (1954-2010), and was the head coach at Florida State, West Virginia, Howard (his alma mater, later renamed Samford) and South Georgia Junior College in Douglas. He won a total of 411 games (including 22 wins at South Georgia and 12 wins that the NCAA later took away when they punished FSU for rules violations).
Now that he’s retired from coaching, Bowden has more time to watch college football, and says he enjoys watching the game.
“That’s what I do now. You know, when you’re a coach, you don’t have time to watch (other teams). You’re so busy watching yourself you can’t see what other people are doing. But now that I’m not coaching, I watch everybody,” Bowden said. “I’m really enjoying it. ... It’s a game I love.”
Naturally he still keeps up with Florida State, and is optimistic about the season ahead.
“I think they’ve got a chance to have a real good football team,” Bowden said. “I think they have a chance to be the best they’ve been since Jimbo’s been the head coach. So if they can get lucky — because I think you have to get lucky to win all your games — if they can get lucky, this could be a big year. I hope they can stay healthy and get a little luck.”
Before the banquet began, Bowden signed autographs, took pictures and conversed with a number of VIPs and table sponsors.
Before Bowden spoke, the audience heard testimonies from two Cook High athletes, Caleb Duncan and Brittany Koppman, and Cook softball and wrestling coach Scott Ray.
The Cook County FCA’s annual Roy White III-Mac Thompson Award (presented in memory of a former player and a former coach at Cook) went to Travin Henry, in recognition of his achievements on and off the field. Henry signed a football scholarship to Georgia Tech in February.
One of the main purposes of the banquet was to raise money for Cook County’s FCA. Money raised will go towards helping send local student-athletes to FCA camp in the summer.
Bobby Bowden may be retired from coaching, but he’s still plenty busy.
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