When the Florida State Seminoles take the field on Saturday afternoon to play the North Carolina State Wolfpack, a familiar face will spike the spear into the turf before kickoff.
But it won’t be Chief Osceola as usual.
Instead, it will be former FSU head coach Bobby Bowden, making his first return to Doak Campbell Stadium for a football game since he retired from coaching in 2009.
The 83-year-old has reunited with the school he made famous, coaching the ‘Noles for 34 years and leading the football program to nearly all of the success it has ever known. He is still revered in Tallahassee, and for good reason – with 389 wins, he’s the second-winningest coach in the history of major college football, behind only Penn State’s Joe Paterno.
If you recall, Bowden’s departure left a lot of people with hurt feelings, Bowden included. Many fans and boosters felt the program was losing steam and falling behind its rivals, and after four highly mediocre years of football while I was enrolled at Florida State, I became one of those voices who wished for a new direction while fully appreciating everything Bowden did to raise the program to glory.
But Saturday isn’t about the struggles, it’s about the great times. At least 300 former players are expected to return to honor Bowden for molding them into the men they are today, and there are likely to be a lot of tears shed in Doak when Bowden re-enters the field. For years, I felt FSU didn’t do enough to bring back the legends of the 1980s and 1990s who shaped the football program, so I’m overjoyed to think of all those greats standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the field.
On Bobby Bowden’s field, where the spear will land yet again.