The former FSU head coach can see that FSU’s new head man has the program heading in the right direction.
Bobby Bowden doesn’t dwell on his departure from Florida State. Bowden said any hard feelings he had with T.K. Wetherell over his forced retirement in 2009 are gone.
Bowden read the news earlier this week that Wetherell, the former president of FSU and Seminole football player, is under hospice care.
Bowden was Wetherell’s position coach when Wetherell came to FSU in 1962 to play wide receiver. Wetherell, 72, has been battling cancer.
“I am pulling for him,” Bowden said. “Any hard feelings I had are gone.”
Bowden’s tenure at FSU ended nine years ago, when Wetherell – president of FSU from 2003 to 2010 – and others decided the Seminoles’ football program needed new leadership.
Bowden, 89, who built FSU into a national power with two national championships, wanted one more season. That did not happen. While Bowden intentionally stayed away from FSU early into retirement – he repeatedly said he did not want to be a distraction – he has more visible the past few years.
Bowden said he last saw Wetherell at a banquet a few years ago. He said the two caught up and “shot the bull. I have been keeping up. I know his health wasn’t the best right now.”
Bowden, meanwhile, feels much better following his bout with pneumonia that hospitalized him over Thanksgiving last month.
Last weekend he traveled to New York City, where he introduced Charlie Ward at a dinner that celebrated the 25th anniversary of Ward winning the Heisman Trophy and becoming the first FSU player to hoist college football’s top honor.
“Charlie was very impressive – he gave an excellent talk,” Bowden said.
Bowden coached two Heisman Trophy winners in Ward and fellow quarterback Chris Weinke (2000). Bowden also believes Anquan Boldin could have won the Heisman Trophy if he had stayed at FSU for his senior season in 2003. Bowden recruited Boldin out of Pahokee High to play quarterback, but he asked to be moved to receiver for more playing time.
Bowden promised Boldin a return to quarterback, but Boldin declared for the NFL Draft and was a second-round selection of the Arizona Cardinals in 2003. It proved to be a good move as Boldin played 14 years in the NFL.
He was the 2003 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, was selected to three Pro Bowls and won Super Bowl XLVII with the Baltimore Ravens. In 2015, Boldin was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year for his community service.
“I told Anquan if you come back for your senior year, I think you will win the Heisman Trophy,” Bowden said. “I think he had as much talent as anybody we had.”
Bowden also is keeping up with FSU coach Willie Taggart’s search for a new offensive coordinator. Taggart lost Walt Bell earlier this month when Bell was named the head coach at the University of Massachusetts.
Bowden, who won 388 games in his career at Samford, West Virginia and FSU, where he spent 34 seasons, says it’s important Taggart finds a coach who fits its coaching style and can recruit.
Bowden also believes it’s too early to judge Taggart, who suffered through a 5-7 season in his first year in Tallahassee. It was the program’s first losing season since 1976 – Bowden’s first year at FSU. The Seminoles also failed to earn a bowl bid for the first time in 37 years.
“That’s the lifeblood of any program; you have to get the best players,” Bowden said. “What he’s got to do is evaluate everything that has happened. People have to give him the benefit of the doubt. You can’t really judge him after one season. You have to give him a chance to recruit his players and see what he can do.”
Bowden also added that his son Terry wants to continue to coach. Terry Bowden was recently fired after seven seasons at Akron, where he went 35-52. Bowden guided the Zips to the MAC East division title in 2017 and bowl appearances in two of the previous three years. Younger brother Jeff Bowden served as special teams coordinator and receivers coach.
With Christmas on the horizon, Bowden’s family will hold its annual holiday gathering at Panama City Beach. When asked what his favorite Christmas gift was as a child, Bowden didn’t hesitate.
“It would have be a train,” Bowden said and laughed.
“I might have been 7 or 8 years old, and my dad got me this beautiful train. It was bigger than most train sets. When I look back, there were some Christmas mornings where we didn’t get that much. But I do remember that train.”
Bowden, in the same breath, also remembered another Christmas gift.
This one left a mark on him, too. Literally.
“One Christmas we got boxing gloves and a punching bag,” Bowden said. “That was big. I think I may have gotten a boxing robe, too. Back in those days we’d box for entertainment.”