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Important lessons about character
By Bobby Bowden
Special to

Bobby Bowden and family are at Troy State University in Troy, Ala., this week, running the 15th Annual Bowden Academy for quarterbacks and receivers. Bobby runs the camp with his sons Steve, Tommy, Terry and Jeff and son-in-law Jack. He is writing a daily diary for as he prepares for his 25th season at Florida State.

Friday, June 22, 2001
Today was the last full day of the Bowden Academy, and although we have a morning session tomorrow, I will make this my last journal entry. I don't want to suggest that I'm ready to head to the beach, but my bags are packed and my car is gassed up.

Tim Couch
Browns QB Tim Couch was never able to beat Jay Barker's long throw at the Bowden Academy.
In the morning, we will have one more workout and hand out awards. We give a trophy to the top quarterback and receiver in the junior group (9th and 10th graders) and the top QB and WR in the senior group (11th and 12th graders). We try not to pick the kids who will necessarily be the best college prospects, but the ones who do the best in our camp. You have to remember, the best QB in our camp might only be 5-foot-8 and the receiver might run a 5.0 flat 40. But the way I see it, if he's the best in our camp, he ought to get a trophy that says he's the best in our camp.

After we present the trophies, we have one more activity that has turned into one of the camp favorites. It is called the "long ball throw." Every year, we have had a throw-off to determine which QB has the strongest arm. No matter which age group they belong to, whoever can throw the ball the furthest has always been kind of a big QB thing.

Jay Barker, the former quarterback at Alabama who led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 1992, is still the reining long ball champion at the Bowden Academy. He threw the ball 73 yards back in the summer of 1988. Since that date, he has had some pretty strong challengers, including Peyton Manning and Tim Couch. It will be interesting to see if this will be the year that someone breaks his record.

Tonight was the last night we had to spend with the boys and the final meeting has always been kind of special. After we came off the field from playing Bowden Ball (the rain forced us in early), we showed them a highlight film. We show them something about Clemson and Florida State every night before the skull session begins, and tonight, we had one that showcased all the catches that Peter Warrick made during his last year at FSU. He is undoubtedly the best wide receiver I've ever coached.

After the video is over, we go straight to a question and answer session. We want these young men to be able to ask us anything they want to about football, recruiting, life or whatever. I figure they may never get three coaches in the same room who have all gone undefeated as head coaches in Division I-A football. If you don't remember, Terry was the undefeated National Coach of the Year at Auburn in 1993, Tommy went undefeated at Tulane in 1998 and I had my perfect season and second cational championship in 1999.

Terry begins the session by telling them about the different levels of college football and what it takes to play football at each of these levels. He is the only coach I know who has been a head coach at Division III, Division II, Division I-AA, and Division I-A. He tells them how many scholarships each level has and what their recruiting calendar looks like. The lower the level of college football, the later they wait to recruit players. Everybody gets what's left over from the division directly above.

Next, Tommy and Jeff get up and tell the boys what Division I-A coaches are looking for in a high school quarterback and receiver. How big, tall and fast do you need to be? Both Tommy and Jeff were receivers in college and have coached that position all their lives. They know what one looks like.

Peter Warrick
Peter Warrick was the best wide receiver Bobby Bowden ever coached.
Jeff tells the campers that the three most important things he looks for in a receiver are speed, quickness and hands. Size will vary based on how fast you are. Tommy says that the most important thing that a high school quarterback needs to have is arm strength. Then, the recruiter is going to look at a QB's height. Six feet seems to be pretty much a cut-off point, although we have all coached guys shorter than that and have had great success. I threw in that the most important thing a quarterback must do is to be a leader. All that other stuff won't matter if a young man can't lead.

Finally, it was my turn to talk and I made the kids get real quiet and sit up straight. I told them that they needed to hear about a couple of things in life that were a lot more important than how big or fast they were or how well they threw or caught the ball.

First of all, they needed to focus on being good students. No matter how good they are, they can't get a scholarship if they don't have the grades. More importantly, football is going to end sooner or later and they need to be ready for the rest of their lives.

Finally, I talked about character. The most important thing that a young man can have is good character. That is simply doing what is right as opposed to doing what is wrong. I told them I had read where at least five college football players this week alone had gotten into trouble and had jeopardized their careers. I told them they could overcome weak arms and slow feet and that they could even overcome poor grades. But I told them they could almost never overcome bad character. Eventually, it will get you.

I told them about my faith in God. I told them that they all needed to seek guidance from a Higher Spiritual Source. If they wanted to do their best in football, they could not let it be the center of their lives. Put God first in your life and everything else will take care of itself. That's what I told them. That's what I believe.

Overall, it has been another great camp and I have enjoyed sharing it with you each day. If you are a young high school athlete, I hope you took to heart some of the things I had to say. As the late great head coach at Auburn University Shug Jordan once said, "Don't wait to be a great man. Be a great boy."

Bobby Bowden Q&A

Camp diaries: Getting started at the Bowden Academy

Camp diaries: Repetition is the key to success

Camp diaries: It's all in the footwork

Camp diaries: A day of rest

Camp diaries: Bowden Ball

Tommy Bowden Q&A