TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – Fans and worshipers arrived early Saturday morning to say a final goodbye to Bobby Bowden, the famed Florida State University coach who died last Sunday at the age of 91.
While the messages mirrored Bowden’s philosophy of making faith, family, and football a priority, our Capitol New Desks’ Mike Vasilinda tells us, Saturday’s emphasis was on faith.
At least 200 people were waiting outside of the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee when the doors opened an hour and a half before Bowden’s Celebration of Life.
“He knew where he was going. He was sure of his salvation. He was going to live eternally. That’s the way I feel,” said fan, Jeff Vernon.
Chris McKinnon and his mom, Pat, came because McKinnon spent eight years attending Bowden’s youth football camps.
“I couldn’t wait to go to it every summer. I was so excited,” he said.
During the memorial, attendees were treated to years of highlight films, including one of Bowden’s many pep talks before a big game.
“If they don’t score, we win, and we do want to win, right?” Bowden is seen telling players.
Players, including Warrick Dunn, who played from 1993 to 1996 at FSU, told stories of how they grew to be men under Bowden.
“He stood up for me in the most difficult time in my life. I am forever grateful for that, and I wouldn’t be here today without coach,” Dunn told the audience.
Mickey Andrews, who spend 20 years coaching for Bowden, says he learned to be tough.
“He stood for doing your best. And he was going to hold you accountable to it,” Andrews said.
The ceremony’s program included a letter to Bowden’s children in 2004, telling them he was going to heaven and would consider his life a failure if they weren’t eventually there too. The letter was written a week after Bowden’s daughter, Ginger, lost her son and husband in a car crash.
The FSU band concluded the celebration of life by playing the fight song, bringing the crowd to do the FSU chop.
Consultant and Sports Writer Don Yaeger told Vasilinda the program was just what Bowden would have wanted.
“I think he would be proudest that football really only did come in sparingly this entire discussion,” Yaeger said.
Bowden will lie in repose at his alma mater, Samford University, Sunday evening. He will be laid to rest during a private ceremony in Trussville, Alabama.