Florida State coach Bobby Bowden likened himself to Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali, an aging former champion who remained confident he still had the skills to score a KO.
All he needed was a shot.
But after his Seminoles finished 6-6, yet another mediocre season this decade, Bowden, 80, met with president T.K. Wetherell and athletic director Randy Spetman and announced he was retiring.
"It's funny. You have years like this and everybody is ready to count you out," he said during his first extended media interview Tuesday afternoon. "It don't take but one great year and you're back in. We're like boxers. We think we've always got one more fight we can win.
"And we usually don't win it," he added with a laugh.
FSU's trip to the Gator Bowl for a game against his old school, West Virginia, will be the finale of a Hall of Fame career. Bowden wanted to return for the 2010 season and then hand off to Jimbo Fisher.
Specifics of what transpired during Bowden's meetings with his bosses on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 are unclear. Was it a matter of diminishing crowds and threats that booster contributions would dry up that led to him leaving a year early?
"I won't get into that. You'd have to ask the president about that or somebody else," he said politely.
Was he offered only a job as a fundraiser/ambassador?
"I'm not sure. I never did clarify that," he said. "You'd have to get that from T.K. or some of those (board of) trustees."
Wetherell and Spetman have remained mum. All Bowden knows is he believed 2010 could be big, a coveted chance to show he still had a punch — much like Penn State's Joe Paterno did in 2004 when he had his fourth losing record in five seasons.
Paterno refused to quit, and turned things around.
"I always thought maybe it would happen to me too," Bowden said. "But it didn't happen like it did to Joe."
He didn't sound bitter, just sanguine.
"It's probably tougher on family than it is me," he said, adding that he, wife Ann and his whole family have realized that his football career is nearly over.
"It was more disappointment than anything else. Ann and I have talked about it a lot. But you know, everything has to come to an end. It would either be now or next year. I was planning on going for another year but it was obvious I could not. … My record ain't too good. I can see where they're coming from."
He said he's heard from legions of fans and has spent the last two days trying to answer as many as he could. Bowden, who initially thought he might not coach the bowl game but didn't want to feel as though he were "running off on" his players, said he'll do what he has done all season as the coach. He will try to have his office cleaned out as soon as he can and, soon after the bowl, he and Ann will leave for Panama City or Birmingham.
Would he return for a game next year? He wouldn't mind coming to Doak Campbell Stadium if he could "slip in." But he doesn't want a farewell party as Wetherell has mentioned.
"Tell him just to send money; tell him to forget the fanfare and just send money," Bowden joked. "No. I really don't need that. I don't need my back stroked. I don't have an ego problem, I don't think. I appreciate their concern and their thoughts but I don't have to have that."
Brian Landman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3347.