Coach Bowden here Friday

Published 5:01 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Legendary former Florida State University Seminoles head football coach Bobby Bowden will be at Godwin Jewelers Friday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. signing his autobiography, “Called To Coach.”

During a Monday telephone interview, Bowden talked about the content of the book, which he co-authored with Mark Schlabach, an ESPN college football writer.

“The book is spiritually based, and I talk about the experiences I have had in 57 years of coaching,” coach Bowden said.

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Bowden led the Seminoles to two national championships and is the second-winningest coach in NCAA football history and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He also talked about some of his former coaches and players who have connections to Bainbridge.

Bowden recalled how Phillip Bryant, a wide receiver on coach Ralph Jones’s Bainbridge High School Bearcats 1982 State Class AAA champion football team, had a big touchdown reception to defeat the Kansas Jayhawks.

“Philip Bryant had great speed and was an outstanding receiver for us,” coach Bowden said.

“I also remember the two years that former Bainbridge defensive back Kirby Smart, an outstanding defensive back at Georgia, was a graduate assistant coach with us. He was a very bright young coach who did a great job for us and who I knew would be very successful.”

Smart, the son of former BHS head football coach Sonny Smart, is now defensive coordinator at Alabama and was named the 2009 college football assistant coach of the year.

Bowden also recalled the years Bearcats’ offensive line and tight ends Coach Tom Wheeler played tight end for the Seminoles and the two years Wheeler and former Bearcats head coach Greg Guy served as graduate assistant coaches with the Seminoles.

“Tom Wheeler was an excellent blocker and pass receiver for us at tight end, and he and Greg Guy, your former Bainbridge High School Bearcats head coach, were strong graduate assistant coaches for us for two years.”

In the book, Bowden also recalls the plane crash that killed the Marshall University football team and the majority of their coaching staff near their campus in Huntington, W.Va.

“I was head coach at the University of West Virginia in November 1970 when the Marshall plane crash occurred,” Bowden said.

Red Dawson, a wide receiver at Valdosta High School who played for Bowden when he was an assistant coach at Florida State under the late coach Bill Peterson in the 1960s, was the only Marshall coach who was not killed.

“Instead of flying with the team and other coaches, Red drove home to Huntington, W. Va., because he wanted to do some recruiting along the way,” Coach Bowden said. “I told Red I would be glad to help any way I could while Marshall was rebuilding their program. I gave them some film and other assistance.”

Bowden has two collegiate Coach of the Year awards named for him. One is given by the Over The Mountain Club in his native Birmingham, Ala., and the other is given by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

In his retirement, Bowden regularly speaks at Fellowship of Christian Athletes events.