'He looked so relaxed.' Remembering FSU legendary coach Bobby Bowden's love of the Bible
It’s well-known that Bobby Bowden enjoyed reading the Bible each morning.
Bobby Bowden looked uncomfortable while hospitalized in late June.
Sue Hall – Bowden’s longtime administrative assistant at Florida State – sat in a chair nearby.
In her hand was a book about women in the Bible. Bowden asked Hall if there was a story in the book on Miriam, the sister of Moses.
“I started reading to him and in a few minutes you could see his face relax, his body relax. I could see him totally change,” Hall said Wednesday.
Bowden, who passed away last Sunday at 91, never wavered in his faith.
He often said it intertwined his coaching career and personal life. Bowden also made sure his players and assistants were aware of the gospel during his 34 seasons at FSU, punctuated by national championships in 1993 and 1999.
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Bobby spread his faith to players
Mark Richt — FSU's former assistant coach and Georgia and Miami head coach - credits Bowden for saving him spiritually. Richt said Bowden led him to Jesus after a player, Pablo Lopez, was shot and killed outside a campus party at FSU in 1986.
“And my life was never the same after that,” said Richt, who is among the scheduled speakers for Bowden’s 11 a.m. public funeral at the Tucker Civic Center Saturday.
Former FSU and NFL player Nick (Gerald) Nichols also credits Bowden for strengthening his faith.
“If I didn’t have the faith I have now, I’d be nervous,” said Nichols, a deacon at the Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota.
“I have emails and phone calls from Coach Bowden that have lifted me up over the years when I had questions.”
Nichols, 57 – his voice wavering with emotion – even recalled the time before an NFL game when he felt unsettled and needed to speak to Bowden before he went on the field. Nichols refused to budge from his locker room chair.
“Coach made the time for me,” said Nichols, who played seven seasons in the NFL and added that his "greatest honor" was presenting a birthday cake to Bowden during a past FSU function in Sarasota.
“He’s so ready for heaven," Nichols said. "I have never seen a man more happy, more set to be in heaven. He always had his priorities in line. What a great man, what a great life."
Bowden was long involved in FCA
Bowden’s legacy will continue to be celebrated in faith.
Bowden, who also shared his testimonial across the country during his speaking engagements, was long involved with sports ministry The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). The Bowden family has asked in lieu of flowers, any donations be made to the organization’s national headquarters in Kansas City.
It’s well-known that Bowden enjoyed reading the Bible each morning. He also kept one on his office desk when he coached at FSU.
Additionally, he routinely autographed photos with the John 3:16 inscription. For ardent Christians, the verse from the Bible's Gospel of John - "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" -- is the foundation of faith.
In 2016, Bowden, wife Ann and Hall traveled to Jupiter at Burt Reynolds’ request for his 80th birthday party. Bowden said the former FSU running back and actor wanted to re-affirm his Christian faith. Bowden said he and Reynolds knelt and prayed together. Bowden also gave Reynolds a small medallion cross that Reynolds wore on his suit jacket during public events.
He died in 2018 at the age of 82.
During his final weeks at home, Bowden usually sat in his recliner in the den. Hall routinely visited and helped the family. She also often asked Bowden if he wanted her to read Bible passages to him.
“Coach never complained and said he was in pain,” Hall said. "I’d randomly pick (stories) and you could totally see the change in him.
“He looked so relaxed."
More moments to come
Look for additional tributes, memories and stories from others on Bobby Bowden at www.tallahassee.com leading up to this weekend's services.
Reach Jim Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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