Thousands show up to see Bowden

LAWRENCEVILLE - Even in Georgia Bulldog country legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden knows how to draw a crowd.

More than 2,000 people turned out to hear Bowden talk at North Metro First Baptist Church's Men's Night.

"It's neat for men and their sons to share something like this," North Gwinnett football coach Bob Sphire said.

Bowden, the all-time winningest football coach in Division I-A history with 366 victories, had plenty of football stories to tell, but it was his message about Jesus Christ that he wanted to get across to everyone - especially the kids in the audience.

"I'll speak next Sunday at a church in Virginia and I speak at a lot of Fellowship of Christian Athlete groups," Bowden said. "Now boys, the reason I do it is because I think it's the most important thing in the world. It's the most important thing in the world. At your age, it's hard to believe, but the most important thing in the world is Christ."

Bowden's nearly hour-long speech wasn't entirely about Christ. He had funny stories about when he became head coach at FSU and he couldn't give away tickets to see the Seminoles play.

And in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia in 2002 when his third-string quarterback, Fabian Walker, threw multiple interceptions, prompting star receiver Anquan Boldin to ask "tell me which defender you are going to throw it to and I'll try and intercept it from him."

"I loved it," Peachtree Ridge senior Aaron Blue said. "I went to his camp actually my freshman year and it was a lot of the same things. My dad played for him (in 1982 and '83) and said how great a man he is, how he's about his faith and it was just really exciting to see him."

Said Sphire: "I think it was awesome. It was a great message and what a classy guy coach Bowden is. I'm sure he has a lot on his plate and for him to come share with us about his faith, it was really nice."

While Bowden, who has won two national titles and 12 Atlantic Coast Conference championships, had plenty of funny football stories it was his final story about his college baseball career he hoped would hit home with everyone.

During his baseball career at Howard (which is now Samford University) Bowden never hit a home run. It was in his final game that he hit a hard liner to left field. As he rounded first base he saw the ball go past the outfielders and he continued on home for an inside-the-park home run.

At least that's what he thought.

The catcher threw the ball to first base and Bowden was called out since he missed touching the bag.

More than 50 years after that game Bowden vividly remembers not touching the base, but looks at it like this: First base is Jesus Christ, second base is all the good things you do in life and third base is all the honors you have received. Home plate is heaven, but if you don't touch first base all the other things don't matter.

"I thought it was great. I mean he gave us a lot of information about how to incorporate Christ and football, so I liked it," Collins Hill football player Nick Smith.

"I think it was great and I think football players need to come watch him speak because he incorporates Christ and football and there's nothing better you can do besides that."