Do you ever experience those moments where you wish you had recorded a family member sharing about some of his or her life experiences? How about that faithful friend or fellow church member who is a wealth of historical information on so many levels?
Finding the time, organizing the effort and maneuvering the daily routines of life always seem to get in the way, and so many times, only after it’s too late do we realize what we missed.
It happened to me recently with an unexpected story about the late Coach Bobby Bowden.
While we’ve covered various parts of his life through the years as a dedicated follower of Christ and one of the most notable church members to bloom out of Alabama Baptist influences (see story here), I would have loved to help develop a single piece tying all the threads together.
The idea surfaced July 9 when my friend Jack Green, 95, who is retired from full-time vocational ministry and served part of his career on the missions field as well as in the military, told me the story about his connection to Bowden.
They met at Howard College (now Samford University) in Birmingham back in the late 1940s and remained friends throughout their lives.
“When I was a senior at Howard, I organized a group of former military students called the Sportsman Club,” Jack told me. His goal — to bring football back to Howard.
Howard’s president at the time, Major Harwell G. Davis, agreed to allow the club to operate and use the gym and athletic field. The Student Government Association helped make sure students could attend free of charge and organized the effort to build new bleachers for the games.
Jack and the club’s officers scheduled eight games and raised money from Birmingham merchants for uniforms. The season was just what was needed to bring football back to the surface after it had been suspended during World War II.
At the end of the season, the club sold the uniforms to the school’s board of trustees and football officially returned.
Enter Bobby Bowden, the first quarterback of Howard’s new, official football team.
“We were very close,” Jack said. “After he left Birmingham, he would still visit my Bible study class at Huffman Baptist Church when he was in town.”
Jack also enjoyed experiencing various football games from the sidelines and even prayed over the 2009 Florida State University team and coaches in the dressing room after Coach Bowden’s final game — a Gator Bowl win against West Virginia, where Bowden had coached 35 years earlier.
“He was the most complete witness for the Lord I have known in 70 plus years of ministry,” Jack said about Coach Bowden. “It was not a game-time religion. He practiced his faith, without making anyone uncomfortable. That is the reason he could say, ‘I am ready,’ at the end.”
Bowden announced he had a terminal medical condition July 21, less than two weeks after Jack’s story had me thinking about how to get the two of them back together in the same room to record some of their shared stories. Then less than three weeks later on Aug. 8 we heard the news that the 91-year-old legendary coach had died.