Florida State president T.K. Wetherell said he knew Bobby Bowden was "larger than life" when he first met him more than four decades ago.
Folks in this town have shared that view for almost as long. Bowden, now in his 29th year as the FSU coach, has established the program as one of the nation's best. He has more wins than any coach in Division I-A history and a pair of national titles, has been the school's most visible ambassador and an invaluable asset during fundraising efforts.
Bowden, 74, stood larger than life on Friday afternoon with the unveiling of a 9-foot bronze statue outside the recently renovated Moore Athletic Stadium.
"Coach Bowden is Florida State University," said Wetherell, a receiver here when Bowden was an assistant.
"You receive something like this and I look back at my life and so many times have said, "Why me? Why does this happen to me?' " said Bowden, who who along with wife Ann pulled off the tarp covering the statue to a thunderous applause of hundreds gathered around. "I never expected anything like this."
All six of his children were there, including Tommy, the coach at Clemson.
"I thought he looks awfully trim," said daughter Ginger, joking. For her, the ceremony was bittersweet; her son, Bowden Madden, and ex-husband, John Madden, died in an automobile accident this month. "I feel sad that John and Bowden couldn't see it."
Bowden, who thanked his family, assistants and his players, past and present for making the honor possible, also was struck by the job of sculptor, W. Stanley "Sandy" Proctor, a Tallahassee native and longtime FSU fan.
Proctor, 64, whose work has been displayed in the White House, was commissioned to produce the work as well as a limited number of miniature busts (one for each of Bowden's collegiate coaching wins, 343 and counting) to be auctioned off to help fund legacy scholarships in the coach's name. That cause overcame Bowden's hesitancy for the project.
While the job was a special treat for the artist, it wasn't an easy one. For one thing, he had to produce the clay model twice; a fire a year ago wiped out his Tallahassee studio.
But the most difficult part was trying to capture the essence of the man as coach.
"It's like going through a scrapbook and picking out a photograph you're going to put on the wall and say, "Okay, this is going to represent me for a long time,' " Proctor said. "That's a tough job."
Bowden did have one complaint.
"I am concerned about the pigeons on that (extended right) arm," he quipped, referring to a joke his son, Steve, made as he introduced his father. "I told him to put long sleeves on me. He left my arm bare, so we've got to do something about them pigeons."
BYE, BYE, BRIDE
When Bruce Burnham of Stockbridge, Ga., gets married today, he'll relax knowing no groomsman will try the sneak play he pulled at a cousin's fall wedding. He ran an earplug from a radio in his tuxedo to listen to the Georgia Bulldogs' game. He removed the plug only for the 10-minute ceremony.
His wedding to Alexa Smith, a UGA alumna with strong Georgia Tech family connections, will be free of gridiron tension. For the first time in 37 years, both Georgia and Tech have scheduled the same Saturday off in the prime wedding season from just after Labor Day through October.
It's a rare fall weekend where to have and to hold means an eternal promise, not a 10-yard penalty.
Burnham's bride dreamed of "the perfect wedding where everyone shows up," and picking this day increased her odds greatly. Some of her relatives, descended from 1920s Tech player Joe Westbrook, will attend because their beloved Yellow Jackets aren't playing. "That's the only reason I'm going," said Tech freshman Catherine Danforth, the bride's cousin, who was not joking.
"If it was a game day, I am not sure I would be there," the groom said.
THE FENCE DEFENSE
Tyrone Willingham is usually worried about offense and defense. Now he's concerned about his backyard fence.
A neighbor has filed a lawsuit against the Notre Dame coach and his wife over a fence being put up around their yard. The suit contends the 5-foot high, black, ornamental, spear-top aluminum fence violates the protective covenants of the subdivision in Granger, a suburb northeast of South Bend, Ind.
The suit asks for a preliminary injunction barring the rest of the fence from being put up and an order mandating that the finished section be removed. A hearing on the injunction is set for Oct. 6.
"We wish they would have sat down and talked with us," Stephen Studer, an attorney for the Willinghams, told the South Bend Tribune this month.
Attorney Shawn Ryan, who represents the homeowners association, said that group made repeated attempts to discuss what was allowable, but the Willinghams did not accept those suggestions. Studer said he told the Willinghams to halt the construction in an attempt to resolve the dispute.
DRESSING DOWN THE QB
Matt Leinart receives praise for his play on the field, but his attire off the field has brought him some grief.
The USC quarterback popped up in Sports Illustrated and in a TV interview wearing a T-shirt that expressed his view of the Trojans being left out of the BCS title game last season.
The shirt had an obscene reference to the BCS printed across it. Some viewers of the Florida State-Miami game complained after Leinart's halftime interview, and Leinart later apologized for wearing it. But not for his view.
"I'll wear it," Leinart said later. "I just won't in interviews. I didn't realize what happened. I just wore what I wear to school. It's inappropriate, and I want to be a role model."
THE WOOING OF DERRICK WILLIAMS
Florida will have a special guest at today's game. A very special guest.
Derrick Williams (6 feet, 190 pounds) is one of the most sought after prospects in the nation. The senior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Md., can play quarterback, wide receiver, slot back, cornerback, safety, punt returner and kick returner. His test scores and grades _ better than a 3.0 average _ make him eligible for NCAA competition, and he's in position to graduate in December and enroll in college by January, in time for spring practices.
On Sept. 1, the first day coaches could call recruits, Williams juggled calls from Florida State, UF and many others. This month, he narrowed his choices to UF, FSU, Maryland, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas, USC and Virginia.
"It's fun to me, it's just fun," Williams told the Washington Post. "I'm very blessed to be in this position. There's so many high schools in the country, so many football players in the country, and I know they'd like to be where I'm at. I try not to take that for granted."
"There's probably a lot of sinners out there to convert."
_ AL GROH, Virginia to the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press on punter Sean Johnson, who spent the past two years on a Mormon mission _ in Las Vegas.
Information from the Associated Press, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Newport News Daily Press, Washington Post and South Florida Sun-Sentinel was used in this report.
Despite the urging of his broze likeness, FSU's Bobby Bowden chooses an alternative route away from the dedication ceremong.
As if Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham doesn't have enough pressure, now he's headed to court.