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perhaps, his favorite. The players began a reunion in 1972 when he played in his first bowl game, the Peach, in Atlanta. Bowden never missed one, even this past spring, before he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He told one of his players on that team, Vernon Brinson, who is a Georgia graduate, that he wanted to attend the reunion.
The group, which has dwindled down to less than a dozen, met in Douglas in July. Even though it is only 112 miles from Tallahassee to Douglas, Brinson chartered a plane to pick up the coach and his wife, Ann, and flew them to Douglas for the weekend. He and the Tiger alumni had, as usual, a joyful time. Among the highlights was going to the football field walking around the premises and reminiscing.
“He was his old self,” Brinson said, “smiling, laughing, telling stories and making everybody feel good.” When Bowden was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006, Brinson bought a banquet table and hosted several members of the South Georgia contingent to be present for Bowden to receive the high honor. For the genial Seminole coach, that gesture was as significant as the induction ceremony itself.
Of all the coaches, I have become associated with over the years, I don’t think I have ever known one to be more benevolent, less self-centered and having lived a cleaner life than this man.
Slap him in the face, slam the door on his thumb and you would not get a word of profanity. Likely he would winch and say, “Dadgum,” his favorite expression. He is one of the very few coaches who has never tasted alcohol—not even a champagne toast when one of his teams won the national championship.
Bobby Bowden has always preached what he practiced.
(Editor’s Note): Sadly, Bobby Bowden passed away last Sunday, August 8, just days after this article was written.