CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson coach Tommy Bowden knew he couldn't
handle his family tragedy alone. So he asked his players for help
in his time of grief.
In a meeting with his seniors Monday, Bowden broke the news of
the deaths of his former brother-in-law, John Madden, and
15-year-old nephew, Bowden Madden, in a Florida traffic accident.
Bowden then asked their cooperation to keep the team's focus on
football and not the Bowden family.
Clemson (1-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) faces Georgia Tech (1-0) on Saturday night. The Tigers are ranked 18th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, 20th in the AP poll.
"I've never seen coach Bowden emotional like that," defensive
lineman Eric Coleman said Tuesday. "It took me by shock."
Madden, a 45-year-old former Florida State lineman who played
for Tommy's father, Bobby, and his son were killed instantly Sunday
when the passenger side of their car hit the front of a truck that was
helping to restore power outages caused by Hurricane Frances.
Bowden said he'll likely miss practice Thursday to attend the
funeral. The loss shook Bowden, who remembered his sister Ginger's
son as a budding Clemson fan to whom he sent Tigers workout gear.
"It's tough, in a situation like this you lose two, you don't
lose one," Bowden said, eyes red as he briefly discussed the
deaths. "You lose a son-in-law, you lose a nephew. My sister lost
a husband, her children lost a father. She lost a child and a
husband. It's a double loss and it's difficult. And it's the first
one so it makes it difficult."
Bowden said the loss "reintroduces you to your priorities."
"Which for me are my Christian faith, my family and my
profession. My Christian faith helps me understand the most
Bowden said he'll do the best he can to keep up with his
football preparations this week.
"My faith helps me compartmentalize," he said.
Family has never been far from Bowden's tenure at Clemson.
Defensive coordinator John Lovett said the deaths were a
personal matter that shouldn't affect the game. "I'm surprised
that it's on ESPN ticker," he said. "To me, that's not where it
should be announced. It's personal to the family."
Clemson center Tommy Sharpe said the players' role will be to
prepare thoroughly and be ready for Saturday's game.
"The man's under a lot of stress right now," Sharpe said.
"Sitting around talking about it is not going to help
anybody," he said. "He's going through a lot of loss and the best
way to respect him as a coach and a person is going out and
practicing as hard as we can."