Coach Bobby Bowden is much like a general on the football field. In fact, had he not gone into coaching, he said he probably would have chosen the military as a career.
Born in Birmingham, Ala., Bowden was confined to his bed at the age of 13 with rheumatic fever. During that time, he shared his bedroom with his grandfather, who lived at the Bowden home after he lost his construction job during the Depression. The pair listened to World War II reports on the radio. It was also around this time when Bowden’s love for football increased as he listened to University of Alabama football on Saturday afternoons.
As Bowden later got into coaching, he recognized that many military and football strategies were similar, especially when defending your position on the field.
“You have a saying in football which is pretty true – you can’t defend everything,” Bowden said. “You’d like to. I wish I could stop their passes and their runs and their short runs and their long passes – you can’t stop everything. If you try to stop everything, you are going to be so weak they can pick you to death.
“In battle, what you’ve got to do is be strong where you think they’re going to attack. And if they are hurting you somewhere else, that’s where your reserves come in or you have to change your strategy and put more of your forces here. We have to anticipate where they’re going to attack and bunch troops up there and just have a very few here. You find out the same thing in football. If they’re strong coming off tackle, we’ve got to slip some men over there and be strong off tackle.”
By studying military icons like Patton, MacArthur and Rommel, Bowden built FSU football, one of the most successful programs in the country, practically from scratch. Doing so has allowed him to make a difference in the lives of several thousand players and inspire even more fans.