We all knew this day would come. After 388 victories over 43 seasons as a head coach, Bobby Bowden has retired.
Unfortunately, FSU felt it necessary to help Coach Bowden make that decision.
When I was given the opportunity to represent Bleacher Report at the Gator Bowl, I jumped at the chance. It didn't matter that I am a die-hard Florida Gator fan and alumnus of the University of Florida, this was a legend's final football game.
FSU's Gator Bowl invitation was viewed by some as a sham. Some felt the only reason FSU was invited was due to Coach Bowden's retirement, and it would sell plenty of tickets. Unfortunately, West Virginia became a forgotten element of the game.
The Gator Bowl became the Bowden Bowl.
Up until game time, the game was all about Coach Bowden, and rightfully so. Sure, the Mountaineers were a formidable foe, but they were looked at as a former employer of Coach Bowden, not as an opponent.
After presenting Coach Bowden with a new 2010 Toyota Camry, the game began with FSU kicking off to the Mountaineers. By the end of the first quarter, West Virginia was up 14-3.
It didn't look good for FSU.
Was this going to be an ugly exit for Coach Bowden? It was before the second quarter started that I began worrying. I also began reminiscing.
As a Florida Gator, there were many times I hoped that FSU would lose. I remembered the "wide rights." Most importantly, I remembered how FSU's football program had fallen into decline the past few years.
Then half-time arrived, and FSU had closed the gap 14-13. As the teams jogged off the field, the cloudy skies parted and the sun appeared. When the game resumed with the commencement of the third quarter, the game belonged to Coach Bowden.
Yes, the injury to West Virginia QB Jarrett Brown played into the Mountaineers struggles, but it wouldn't have mattered. The Seminole Nation knew that their football team was going to provide Coach Bowden with his 389th victory.
When the press was given access to the field with five minutes left in the game, the Seminoles were well in control of the game. When the game's last seconds ticked off the clock, we swarmed the field to witness the Gator Bowl trophy presentation.
It would be the last time the college football world would see Coach Bowden on the gridiron.
Soon, Coach Bowden was carried off the field as the school's fans cheered and gave their beloved coach a well-deserved ovation. As he disappeared into the stadium, we followed him before he entered the team's locker room.
We then entered into the press conference and waited first for West Virginia Coach Bill Stewart.
Then entered Coach Bowden.
As usual, Coach Bowden held court. He had everyone in the room in the palm of his hand. He joked, laughed, and answered every question with his familiar Southern charm and wit. After half a dozen questions, I raised my hand and requested the microphone.
Then it happened.
Ann Bowden, wife of Bobby Bowden of 60 years, walked up to him and said: "Time to go home, honey." She gave him a kiss and hug (see the picture above), and the crowd applauded.
I gave the microphone back.
Maybe I lost my opportunity to ask Coach Bowden my question, but nothing should have interrupted that moment in time. It was also the culmination of Coach Bowden's career, and his wife sealed his career with a kiss.
And I was there.
As a college football fan, I appreciate the coaches and athletes that make the sport great. Today, a chapter in the sport's history came to a close, and I was there to witness it—in the press box, on the field, and in the press conference.
"How about you, honey?" Coach Bowden asked his wife. "It's been good" she replied. "I guess that's it," said Bowden, and they walked out to a round of applause.
I'm still smiling and will be for quite some time.
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