NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Bobby Bowden has a big decision to make Monday.
Stay in his hotel and watch Florida State’s quest for a third national title in peace. Or drive out to the Rose Bowl, where he’ll probably miss the whole thing.
“A lot of people will be coming up to me, ‘Can you sign this? Can you take a picture with my girlfriend?’ things like that,” Bowden said. “And I have trouble saying ‘No.”’
Such is life for the 84-year-old patriarch of Florida State football, who now watches from the outside but remains the most recognizable Seminole there is.
That’s the payoff for 34 years of coaching, for taking a program on the verge of extinction and turning it into a national powerhouse — and for doing it all with a dadgum smile.
Bowden’s number is still listed in the phone book. He still lives in the cream-colored brick house in Tallahassee, a drive across town from campus. But when he passes through that campus, which has prospered on every level because of the time he spent there, it never crosses his mind that he helped build all that.
Same thing goes when he looks at the Seminoles, who, four years after Bowden was eased into retirement, find themselves one win away from another championship.
“I’m not built that way,” Bowden said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I love what they’re doing. I want them to succeed, get back on top. I’m happy about it. But as far as looking back and saying, ‘Look at what I did,’ I have no desire to do that.”
No big surprise, given his humble roots and an aw-shucks demeanor that once elicited the almost-believable admission that he was really enjoying easy-listening radio through the headphones he wore on the sideline.