Former Bowden player, “He was a minister with a whistle around his neck”

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Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 9:27 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Coach Bobby Bowden changed the landscape of college football.

Two national titles, two Heisman Trophy winners, and the second-winningest coach in Division One history. But, as dominant as Coach Bowden was on the field, he was even more impactful in his players’ lives.

“He was a minister with a whistle around his neck,” said Bobby Butler, a former cornerback of Coach Bowden’s.

Butler was also a part of Coach Bowden’s first recruiting class with the Florida State Seminoles. Soon after arriving on campus, he’d learn how important the three F’s were to Coach Bowden.

“He always talked about faith, family, and football, in that order. So his dreams still came through and true because he kept God, faith first. And the guy won everything, two national titles, a couple of Heisman Trophy winners, and had we not played Miami we probably would’ve had five or six more National Titles,” said Butler.

In 1977, Bowden was still making a name for himself and FSU was not yet a powerhouse. Even so, it only took one conversation for Butler to commit to the Noles.

Butler said, “Me and my parents met with Coach Bowden, and probably for the next 45 minutes to an hour we just talked. And when we walked out of the room I turned to my mom and said, ‘Mom, I’m playing for that guy.’ And my mom said, ‘You can’t make that decision right now. You have to take all your visits.’ And I said, ‘Mom, I’m playing for this guy.’ right? And I didn’t connect the dots at that point, but he was just like my dad.”

Butler told me Coach Bowden always made them feel like family and he wasn’t someone you ever wanted to let down.

As Butler prepares for Coach’s funeral, he knows Bowden would want just one thing.

“He’s always going to have that come to Jesus moment with you, you know, and I really love him for that. So for me personally, I know that what he would want more than anything is to help the Kingdom of God grow and to lead people to the Lord,” said Butler.

On Friday, according to FSU Athletics, Bowden will lie in the rotunda of the state Capitol in Tallahassee, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. At 2 p.m., he will lie in the Moore Athletic Center located at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee for a public viewing that will last until 7 p.m.

Bowden’s public funeral on Saturday will be held at Florida State’s Tucker Civic Center, beginning at 11 a.m. The funeral will be live-streamed on

Bowden will then make a final trip to his alma mater, Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday, where he will lie at Reid Chapel from 4 to 6 p.m. Bowden will then be buried in nearby Trussville, Alabama, in a private service.

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