Winningest Coach in NCAA Division I Football History Shares Secret to Success

Bobby Bowden was a college football fixture and legend while other coaching colleagues came and went. His unequaled success is unlikely to be matched. He retired with the most career wins and bowl wins of any coach in Division One history. “People say do you miss it? I say not yet. I got 57 years’ worth. But I love to watch it. I’d watch—I’ll watch every game,” says Coach Bowden. “I’ll watch every Florida State ballgame.” It’s a Florida State loyalty that comes after 34 years as the Seminoles head coach where he brought 33 straight winning seasons, two national championships and 12 conference titles, closing 14 straight seasons with a 4th national ranking or higher. Whether in a season, game or quarter, Coach Bowden strengthened his team’s stance to finish strong. And when the 4th quarter came, there were unique challenges. “I think the big thing about the 4th quarter, of course you know how serious it is in a basketball game, or in a football game,” says Coach Bowden. “It all comes down to that, you know. The team that can survive is the one that’s going to win it. And uh, and just like me, I’m in the latter part of my life. And uh, it’s kind of like boy, I’ve got so much to say, gosh I ain’t got a lot of time to say it in, you know.” With a 4th quarter urgency, the man who once served as a surrogate father while coaching continues to mentor as a grandfather in his newest book, The Wisdom of Faith. “Wisdom comes from the fear of the Lord, that we honor Him and put Him first. Guess you’d call it respect,” says Coach Bowden. Coach Bowden accentuates the principles that equipped his players while helping him navigate his unprecedented achievement. “You get to the top and there’s nothing there. The higher you are, the more lonesome it gets and more you’re by yourself, you know it. And to me, that’s why God has got to be the center of your life. There’s nothing else. There is only one thing that’s going to completely satisfy you, son. And that is your love for God who made you and who loves you. And His Son Jesus! And our young people are not getting it.” One of Coach’s many roles has been that of father-figure. “I know my last years of coaching at Florida State, so many of my players had not –there was not a male figure in the home, they’re raised by mothers. Thank God for mothers. And grandmothers! But where in the heck is the man? We’ve got to get the man back staying in the home. The breakdown of the home—American home is, to me, is the greatest thing we’re lacking right now,” says Bobby. However, Coach Bowden recognizes the silver lining. “What a great opportunity coaches have. I used to tell my coaches, men, you’re going to be the closest thing these boys ever had to a father. So we must act it. We must accept that responsibility to show them what a father should be like. When I speak at a coaches’ convention, I speak every year somewhere. The first thing I tell them is don’t make football your god. You’ll be a very unhappy man if you do. You put God ahead of football. Football is a priority. But not the priority! God is the priority. And we must always keep that in front of the coaches and the players.” Bowden kept that priority when he coached. And consistently! Longing to reach a listening ear with the perspective he prioritized! “I’ll say it bluntly, know about Jesus. I wanted any boy who played for me, when God –when they sit before God in judgment, don’t sit there and tell God you ain’t never heard of Jesus. Cause old Bobby Bowden done told you about Him down there on earth, you know it. I really felt compelled to do that. I know –like I said, it might not be politically correct, but I felt like when I coached a young man, I got to make sure he gets a degree, I got to be sure he’s the best player he can possibly be, then I got to –I want him leaving me knowing about Jesus.” He’s tenacious with his message, especially after losing two grandsons in separate car accidents. The first came in 2004, a tragedy that also killed his son-in-law. Coach Bobby then wrote a letter asking his immediate family to take inventory of their spiritual lives. “We’re not used to losing people younger. We’re used to losing family, mothers, daddies, grandmothers, granddaddies, but not—not children. Oh man, that hurts. There’s no way you can explain it, you know, unless you’ve lost one yourself. Just plead with them again to find Jesus Christ as their Savior. It’s a reminder to us that we’re going to die too. I’m not anxious to die but I am prepared if He took me right now. And Coach Bowden often wonders what arriving in Heaven will be like. “I think about that. Again, at my age, you know. I was thinking, you know Bobby, one of these days you’re going to close your eyes and you’re going to be looking right square –square at Jesus Christ. I kind of can’t wait. I can’t. He’ll say I always loved you, you know, that’s Him. And uh, I don't know but I can’t wait to hug his neck.” Bobby Bowden, college football’s storied coach, whose on-field success brightens his legacy of coaching for life-changing rewards! “I never seen God. I never seen the wind either. I’ve heard it. I’ve felt it. I know what it can do. And the same way about God. I’ve seen what He can do. And I’ve heard Him and I’ve felt Him. When I see Jesus I know exactly how God is. He died for my sins. All I have to do is accept Him, you know it. And boy I jumped right on top of that one, baby. I got me a Savior, you know it. And uh, I don’t worry about nothing else. That’s what matters.”

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