Bobby Bowden remembered by former FSU football stars Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks, Charlie Ward

TALLAHASSEE (Fla.) -- Warrick Dunn was just a widower when he arrived at Florida State in 1993. He worried about his siblings back in Louisiana.
Bobby Bowden was able to make him feel comfortable, and that had nothing to do football.

"Looking back Coach Bowden saw something within me that no other person saw," Dunn stated during a ceremony to honor Bowden's memory. "He believed in my potential, and that's powerful for an 18-year old who is just trying to figure his life." Coach is a man who uses wisdom and faith to make boys men.

Every speaker on Saturday shared the same message. They forgoed almost all talk about Bowden’s legendary football coaching career in order to tell why Bowden was someone they loved and respected. Every story and anecdote focused on Bowden’s faith, belief system, and his care for his coaches, players, and most importantly, his family.

Bowden, 91, died August 8 from pancreatic cancer. However, the celebration inside the Florida State basketball arena was more about his life than anything.

Bobby Bowden, longtime coach of Florida State, is flanked at the Tucker Civic Center by Florida Highway Patrol officers during a public celebration. Mark Wallheiser/AP

Over 300 former coaches and players attended the service, including Terrell Brooks, Terrell Buckley and Charlie Ward. Clemson coach Dabo Swainney, USF Coach Jeff Scott, and Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher were also present. Jimbo Fisher succeeded Bowden as Florida State coach, and he spent eight seasons as the Seminoles coach, winning a national championship in 2013.

Fisher changed his team's practice times to allow him to attend. He also reflected on how his career had so closely connected with Bowden's. His relationship with the family goes back to 1984 when he played at Salem College with Bowden's son Terry, and before Fisher transferred to Samford, where Bobby Bowden attended school.

Before becoming the head coach, Fisher was Florida State's offensive coordinator under Bobby Bowden.

Fisher stated, "He was great mentor." "What he and my family meant to me in terms of my career and what I was able to achieve, the things that they taught me, and the exposure that I had to doing it right with the greatest person in the history, I feel so blessed to have that relationship."

Bowden continued his career even though Fisher left for Texas A&M in 2017. Bowden is an avid newspaper reader and subscribed to the Houston Chronicle to keep up.

Brooks shared one his most memorable memories from his time at Florida State. He was called in to Bowden's office as a freshman. Brooks didn't know what he had done wrong and neither did anyone else. Brooks entered Bowden's office nervously, and he told Brooks how disappointed he felt that Brooks was not living up to his potential.

Brooks was shocked at Brooks' words and asked him if he was certain he had the right player. Bowden agreed. Bowden pulled Brooks' grades from his first semester. Bowden pointed to the C Brooks received in biology and noted that it was the first C Brooks had ever earned in his life. Brooks then heard his mother yelling profanities through the speakerphone.

Brooks replied, "He hung up the phone and he said, "Oh my God, Derrick! You better get it together!" "Dadgummit! I don't want her coming down here to whup my butt and yours simultaneously, so you need to figure this out."

Brooks stated that Bowden's story was why Brooks loved him so much. He wanted Brooks to live up to his potential in all aspects of his life. Bowden said to him two weeks ago that he was at peace if God gave him 10 years or 10 minutes. More important, I want to see you continue to make a difference in the community. Dadgummit, keep hugging your children."

Dunn noted that Bowden's football legacy is "unique," and also mentioned that three Florida State players were awarded the NFL Walter Payton Man-of-the Year Award for their community service. Brooks, Anquan Boldin, and Dunn are all reflections of Bowden.

Some football talk was also included. Ward, who was instrumental in Bowden's 1993 national title win for Florida State, spoke about the three Ps that Bowden taught him: perseverance, preparation and patience. Ward shared a story about his junior season when he threw 17 interceptions, including four in a victory over Clemson.

Ward stated, "Adversity was something that he helped me overcome because he supported my when I was throwing footballs to the wrong teams a lot during my junior season." He had his doubts, but I am grateful that he allowed me failure and helped me come back to my feet. He believed in me and kept pushing me forward. However, he reminded me during the Clemson game, that we were wearing white not orange.

Many of Bowden’s children spoke. Ginger Bowden's daughter read a letter he wrote to Ann on March 10, 1949 in which he expressed his love for her. Before speaking about their 72-year-long marriage, Ginger played a video montage of them together while someone sang "Wind Beneath My Wings." Ann held Bobby Bowden's hand in one of his last days, closing the montage.

Terry Bowden and Tommy Bowden, who were inspired by their father to become coaches, spoke as well. Terry shared the message he gave his ULM football team recently, which he had learned from his dad: Make football a priority, and not THE priority.

Bowden's impact on all who were around him was made possible by football, which is why his family opened the celebration to the public. After a 34 year career with the Seminoles there was only one way to end the day. The FSU Marching Chiefs rushed into the arena to play the school song and the war cry one last time for their coach.