(This photo was taken at a FCA Banquet in Knoxville, TN in 2010. Coach Bowden was the keynote speaker. Also in attendance, was former Tennessee Volunteers Head Coach, Philip Fulmer).
Oftentimes, when I meet people, and they find out that I played for The Florida State Seminoles (1997-01) under legendary Head Coach Bobby Bowden, they ask me, "What was it like to play for Bobby Bowden?" Now, when this happens, I try to answer this question as best as I can with just a few words. But the truth be told, this is a very meaningful question, that cannot be answered in just a few words. Therefore, let me take this opportunity, to try to answer this question as thoroughly as I possibly can from my perspective as I look back on my playing days at Florida State under legendary Head Coach Bobby Bowden.
1. To play for Coach Bowden was a privilege
Listen, as a young offensive linemen at Florida State, playing time was hard to come by during those days. To get on the field as a true freshmen was a big deal, even if it was for mop up duty! At the time, I was just happy to be there, to be associated with Florida State Football wherever I went, and to seemingly have Coach Bowden's approval was amazing! I mean, I must have had his approval, because I was getting a few burns - playing time (hahahaha)! In all humility, and on a more serious note, as I think about what it was like to play for Coach Bowden, I realize that it was a great privilege, and a wonderful opportunity that so many young men only wish they had. And as I get older, I'm developing an even greater appreciation for the privilege I had to play for Coach Bowden.
2. To play for Coach Bowden was pressure
It's hard to imagine the amount of pressure, and the level of expectation that was placed upon us to perform. Whether it was in Mat Drills during Winter Conditioning, or in the South Florida heat against the Miami Hurricanes, like a father would his sons, Coach Bowden demanded us to get the job done, or someone might say, "finish the drill."
From a football standpoint, we always knew when Coach Bowden was not pleased with our performance, whether it was individually or collectively. When things were not going well with the offensive line, our position coach, Jimmy Higgins, would come in our segment meetings telling us what "The Man" said ("The Man" being Coach Bowden). In no uncertain terms, Coach Bowden was the boss. The assistant coaches, as capable as they were, did what Coach Bowden asked them to do. Whether it was Chuck Amato, Mark Richt, and/or Mickey Andrews, you knew Coach Bowden was in charge, and there was pressure on all of us.
Even in the classroom, Coach Bowden expected us to do what was right. (Now, we didn't always do what was right, but at least we knew it was what he expected of us.) I remember the time I did a research paper, and I didn't like the grade that I received on my paper. And the professor asked the class to write a follow-up essay on, "What Is Good Writing?" Well, I proceeded to tell him in my follow-up essay that my research paper was good writing, and I used a few choice words (profanity) to prove my point. And without any hesitation, the professor sent a copy of my essay to the football office. And it wasn't long before my paper reached Coach Bowden's Desk.
At this point, it didn't take long for me to be called into Coach Bowden's office, and before I could sit down, he asked me in a very stern voice, "What is this?" I knew that he was asking me about the essay that I had written. Then he said to me, "Does your mother know that you're writing stuff like this?" I said, "no sir." Finally, he said to me, "I don't ever want to see you in my office about something like this again. Do you understand me?" I said, "yes sir," and I hurried out of his office. Dear reader, it's been more than a decade, yet I still remember the pressure that we were under haven played for Coach Bobby Bowden on and off the field.
3. To play for Coach Bowden is permanent
The picture at the top of this article was taken at the Knoxville Civic Center, as I mentioned at a FCA Banquet. Now, before Coach Bowden got up to speak, I walked up to him, with my hand covering my name tag. And he sat in his chair for a brief moment, looking at me as if to say, "I know you from somewhere." Shortly thereafter, he said to me, "Belle Glade, FL" which is my hometown! (Yes, Coach Bowden remembered me by my hometown!) Then, I uncovered my name tag, and he said to me, "Otis Duhart!" And immediately, he got up from his seat, and hugged my neck! I told him that my family was there, and I asked him if he wanted to meet them, with great joy, he said, "yes!" You see, I didn't score a touchdown at Florida State, I was not a Consensus All-American, nor did I make it to the NFL, but I will always be, "One of Bobby's Boys!" Once you've played for Coach Bowden nothing can change that, it's permanent!
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