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Bowden’s passion, presence felt at prayer breakfast

BRADENTON — The Florida State football stories had been told.

The yarns about little Florida towns, too.

Bobby Bowden got serious.

“What is it?” the coaching legend asked the capacity audience Thursday morning at Bradenton Auditorium.

“What ... is ... it?” he repeated.

More than 500 people, laughing and applauding Bowden at the Third Annual Leadership Prayer Breakfast to benefit Take Stock in Children of Manatee County, became silent, absorbed by his words.

“How many times have you heard someone say, ‘Boy, he’s big and strong, but he just doesn’t t have it.’

“What is it?”

Bowden, 80, pointed to the left side of his chest. “It’s your heart,” he said.

Unceremoniously forced into retirement last December after 34 years at FSU, Bowden showed he has lost none of the passion or presence that defined his 50 years in coaching and leading young men.

“Everything he said resonated with me,” said Seabreeze Elementary School principal Jackie West.

“He said some powerful things,” said Sugg Middle School Principal Sharon Scarbrough. “It’s what’s inside you that really drives you.”

Bowden identified four keys — enthusiasm, discipline, attitude, persistence — as being integral to one’s growth.

Not just athletically, but spiritually, said the devout Bowden.

Enthusiasm is a must. “Know where it comes from? A Greek word — theos — which means, ‘God in you,’” Bowden said. “You want enthusiasm? Get God in you.”

“His message fits all people,” said school board member Walter Miller, the chairman for TSCMC’s leadership council. “It will regenerate us, get us going again.”

TSCMC has 350 students in the program, but more than 500 are turned away because of lack of funding and mentors.

One such student is Manatee High’s Fernando Capula, who is waiting to get into the program. Bowden made an impression on him.

“It’s on me to always be persistent, never stop trying,” said the 18-year-old. “Always have a good attitude toward everything you do. I know what the right thing to do is — and do it even if nobody tells me what to do.”