Bobby Bowden’s death brings fans to his statue outside Doak Campbell Stadium

TALLAHASSEE – At 12:15 p.m. on a sweltering day in Tallahassee, Kristin Tetsworth passed the hurdles surrounding the 9-foot bronze statue of Bobby Bowden outside Doak Campbell Stadium.

She assessed the available real estate. There was not much room left in front of the bus. Finally, she found an opening just large enough for the old orange juice bottle she was using as a vase.

His homage was greater than the others. A shock of rouge, she said, because it came from the heart.

It was only hours after news of Bowden’s death hit the Florida State University community. There was no plan for a public display of support for the beloved coach. But dozens of FSU fans like Tetsworth still came to the statue on Sunday, as if summoned by the gravitational force of their loss.

“He changed people’s lives. He deserves respect. That’s exactly what you do, ”said Tetsworth, who said she graduated from FSU in 1976 – the year Bowden took over the football program. “He’s like a member of the family.

Fans lay flowers at the Bobby Bowden statue at Doak Campbell Stadium on the Florida State Campus. [ KIRBY WILSON | Times ]

At the statue, families gathered for a silent fellowship with Bowden. Fathers brought sons. Women brought husbands. Solemn individuals took photos of the makeshift memorial. Some took a moment to read the plaques surrounding the statue. Some cried. Everyone wore seminole garnet.

Anna Irwin wiped away a tear as her husband David placed an assortment of roses near Coach Bowden. She wasn’t there to honor Bowden’s stellar coaching resume. She was there in deference to the figure Bowden represented to her off the field.

“He changed so many lives with his faith,” Anna Irwin said of Bowden, an outspoken Christian. “He used his position to help save people. “

Many have spoken of what Bowden means for Tallahassee. Although he was nationally acclaimed for his success in America’s most popular sport, he was, by many accounts, a man of the city.

Jimmy Lovelady and his wife, Jennifer, had some shopping to do on Sunday. But Jimmy had never known life in his town without Coach Bowden. When Lovelady learned of his death, he said he added a stop to his to-do list.

Bowden might have been gone, but there was still a time and place to remember him.

“We have Bobby here,” Jimmy Lovelady said, pointing to the law.

Florida State Head Coach Bobby Bowden, bottom right, addresses the crowd after the unveiling of a statue of him.
Florida State Head Coach Bobby Bowden, bottom right, addresses the crowd after the unveiling of a statue of him. [ PHIL COALE | Associated Press (2004) ]

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