03/13/14 — Famed Florida coach speaks at FCA banquet

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Famed Florida coach speaks at FCA banquet

By John Joyce
Published in News on March 13, 2014 1:46 PM

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Thomas Vermillion, left, of Kinston, uses his cell phone to take a selfie with Bobby Bowden, legendary Florida State University football coach. Bowden spoke at Wednesday night's Fellowship of Christian Athletes fundraiser held at the Walnut Creek Country Club. More than 400 people attended the event.

Bobby Bowden still packs a heck of a wallop.

The second-winningest head coach in college football history filled the house beyond capacity at Walnut Creek Country Club, bringing in 430 people Wednesday night to hear him speak at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes fundraiser.

He also delivers a pretty stiff smack to the posterior midsection -- the kind that encouraged several hundreds of players on and off the field during the coach's 57-year career.

Bowden flew from Tallahassee to Charlotte, Charlotte to the Outer Banks, the Outer Banks to Greenville and then drove into Goldsboro Wednesday to attend the banquet -- the type of event he attends two to four times a week.

"He does it for nothing," FCA Board director David Perry said.

Perry, along with area director Will Collins and the Wayne, Lenoir and Greene County FCA staff, brought Bowden in to encourage local residents to pony up and support the Youth Athletic Christian Ministry.

"Our goal tonight is to raise $96,400 over the next year," Perry said. "Eighty-four percent of every donation stays right here in the region."

The FCA is staffed by 1,100 members and is active at 9,300 campuses across the country.

The organization hosts 429 camps annually in 38 states and 25 countries worldwide.

Locally, the FCA has a presence in 11 middle schools, 16 high schools and two colleges, bringing young athletes to the ministry.

But most importantly, Bowden said, it offers young men and women role models.

"I don't know of any group that has a better shot at saving our nation," he said.

Bowden said one of the most frequent questions he fielded late in his career was whether or not boys had changed over the years.

He always answered the same way.

"No," he said. "That boy 50 years ago who came in and stood at the corner of my desk was young and inexperienced and cautious ... is the same kid that comes in today.

"Except maybe he dresses a little different."

But what has changed, Bowden added, is the parents.

As recently as 2009, more than half of the 100 or more boys he would coach each year came from single-parent homes.

"Sixty-five percent of them didn't have a daddy," he said.

So the coach took a moment to thank God for the mothers, grandmothers and big sisters he knows are raising young boys to be men.

But they can't do it alone, he said.

And that is where groups like the FCA come in.

"If they don't have a male figure in their life they are going to get it from somewhere -- the church, sports, gangs -- somewhere," he said.

And while the importance of the FCA is not greater than a church, it is a way to get young people who are involved in sports and looking for more of an understanding in their lives to come to Christ and be brought in to a church, Bowden added.

The coach left the audience reaching for their wallets.

He walked off the stage to a standing ovation, was whisked out the door to a waiting car -- pausing, briefly, to take a few "selfies" with a young fan before heading to back to Greenville.

"If we had more guys like this young man coming through the FCA, that would be tops with me," Bowden said.