Bobby Bowden, the longtime Florida state football coach who ranks second all-time in Division I, has died, the school said on Sunday morning.

He was 91.

Bowden was diagnosed with an incurable disease in July. He didn’t reveal what the condition was at the time, though his son Terry later told reporters it was pancreatic cancer.

“I’ve always tried to serve God’s purpose for my life, on and off the field, and I’m prepared for what’s to come,” Bowden said in a statement announcing the condition. “My wife Ann and our family have been the greatest blessing in life. I am at peace.”

Bowden also dealt with what he called a “hard” COVID-19 attack in 2020 that came to his home in Tallahassee a few days after returning from an extended hospital stay with an infection in his leg.

“Florida State University lost a legend with the death of Bobby Bowden,” University President John Thrasher said in a statement. “On behalf of everyone at FSU, Jean and I offer our deepest condolences to Ann and the Bowden family. Coach Bowden built a football dynasty and raised the national profile of Florida State University, and he did so with class and a sense of humor. While Leaving an incredible legacy as one of the best football coaches in college history, he will also be remembered for his great faith, love for family and caring for countless young people. He is deeply missed. “

Bobby Bowden is second all time in Division I with 357 wins. Jeffrey Boan / AP Images

Robert Cleckler Bowden, better known as Bobby, was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1929. He was a sickly child diagnosed with rheumatic fever and spent much of his youth in bed. While listening to radio broadcasts, Bowden developed a love of football. He listened to Alabama games on the radio – and while soccer didn’t cure Bowden, it certainly led to his life’s work. With his health in check, Bowden played soccer at Woodlawn High School and dreamed of dressing for the Crimson Tide.

And he did – no less as a quarterback – but love came first, after all.

Alabama’s policy back then was that freshmen weren’t allowed to get married, but Bowden was dying to marry his high school mistress, Ann Estock. He did, and he left his career at Tide.

He later played quarterback for Howard College (now Samford University). He also played baseball and ran the track.

After graduating, Bowden got his first coaching job as an assistant to Howard. He turned this into another job, sporting director and head coach at two-year South Georgia College, which led him back to Howard as head coach in 1959, where he coached until 1962.

His coaching skills grew during this time, as did his wanderlust to coach larger schools.

His University Division (now Football Bowl Subdivision) actually started out with the Seminoles as a wide receivers coach from 1963 to ’65. He then went to West Virginia to serve as the offensive coordinator from 1966 to ’69. He was named head coach in 1970 and had a record of 42-26 with the Mountaineers.

The tragic 1970 Marshall plane crash hit Bowden hard in his first year as head coach. He applied to the NCAA to wear Marshall jerseys and play their last game for them – but the NCAA said no. Instead, players added green crosses and “MU” to their helmets.

He later said that Marshall wanted him to be his next head coach. But in 1976, Bowden went to the state of Florida mainly because Tallahassee was warmer and closer to his mother. His first year as the Seminoles head coach wasn’t his best – they went 5-6 – but it was his only loss in his 34 seasons. In 1982, the Seminoles received their first bowl invitation under Bowden, which would result in 28 consecutive bowl appearances and national championships in 1993 and the 1999 top 5 on the AP poll.

His status as a Florida State legend – and a college football legend as a whole – was established around this time. He and Penn State Coach Joe Paterno were head to head at number 1 and 2 on the list of top coaches. In 2009, Bowden announced his resignation. The last few years of his coaching career weren’t exactly outstanding.

“Nothing lasts forever, does it? But I’ve had some wonderful years here in Florida, you know that,” Bowden said when he announced his resignation. “Didn’t do as well lately as I would have liked, but I’ve had wonderful years, I don’t regret it.”

The current trainer of the Seminoles, Mike Norvell, praised Bowden’s character on Sunday.

“Coach Bowden was one of the greatest coaches of all time, but more than that, he was an incredible man,” Norvell said in a statement. “He was a special person who earned a lasting legacy because of the wonderful heart, faith and values ​​he lived. It was the honor of my life to know him and beyond anything I could dream of, one To have a relationship with him. “

Former FSU standout and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, now a coach himself, used Twitter to say goodbye to Bowden.

God bless the Bowden family, friends and loved ones. My prayers are with you. I’ve lost one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. pic.twitter.com/aNvkMJ704c

– COACH PRIME (@DeionSanders) August 8, 2021

One of Bowden’s coaching rivals, former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, took to Twitter to offer his condolences.

Today we lost a legend. Bobby has been a great friend and mentor to me, and his influence went beyond coaching in many ways. Greetings to Ann and the entire Bowden family.

Rest in peace, Trainer Bowden. pic.twitter.com/om6LRmkkIo

– Urban Meyer (@CoachUrbanMeyer) August 8, 2021

The Seminoles remained in the hands of new head coach Jimbo Fisher, who was named his successor in 2007 after Bowden officially retired. Bowden ended his career with a 2009 Gator Bowl victory. A few weeks later, the NCAA withdrew 12 victories from Florida in 2006 and 2007 when it was discovered that the FSU had committed sports fraud. He has 357 career wins and is just behind Paternos 409.

Bowden and his wife had six children, including two who became college football coaches, former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden and former Auburn coach Terry. Bobby Bowden, a devout Christian, was named after him. He is also the namesake of the Bobby Bowden National Collegiate Coach of the Year Award as part of a Birmingham football club. The first such award went to Alabama trainer Nick Saban. Bowden presented it to Saban personally.

Bowden was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.