John and Bowden Madden

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Bowden coaches try to focus on football during family tragedy

Bobby Bowden watched Florida State fine-tune for its Friday night showdown with Miami. And he talked about his team's handling of the four-day delay due to Hurricane Frances but not about his family's tragedy.

But it wasn't business as usual for the Bobby Bowden family less than 48 hours after the coach's grandson Bowden Madden and former son-in-law John Madden were killed in an accident on Interstate-10 late Sunday night.

"For literally hundreds of players and a lot of staff .. coach Bowden is the strength of the program," said Rob Wilson, FSU assistant athletic director. "He's the person you go to when you need some perspective and comfort. He's the rock, and he will be the rock through this, too. But because he always puts football way down in his priorities behind his faith and family, you realize how much it hurts him."
Funeral plans were set for today at 11a.m. EDT at the First Baptist Church in Fort Walton Beach. Bobby Bowden will join the team in Miami after taking a mid-afternoon flight. The team will leave Tallahassee at 1p.m.

Fifteen-year-old Bowden, like his father, John, 45, played center at Choctawhatchee, which hosts nearby Niceville on Friday.
That game will go on as scheduled. There will be a moment of silence, and players will wear Bowden Madden's number 57 on their helmets when the Indians take the field on the same night Bobby Bowden's No.4 Seminoles travel to No.5 Miami for a game postponed from Monday because of Frances.
"Bowden and John both would want them to play," Principal Cindy Masserelli said Tuesday.

In Clemson, S.C., Tommy Bowden asked his players for help in his time of grief and pain.

In an emotional meeting with his seniors Monday, Bowden broke the news of the deaths of his former brother-in-law and nephew, then asked for their cooperation to keep the team's focus on football and not the Bowden family.

No.20 Clemson (1-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) prepares to face Georgia Tech (1-0) on Saturday night.

"I've never seen Coach Bowden emotional like that," defensive lineman Eric Coleman said Tuesday. "It took me by shock."

Tommy Bowden said he'll likely miss practice Thursday to attend the family funeral. The loss shook Bowden, who remembered his sister Ginger's son as a budding Clemson fan he sent Tigers workout gear to.

"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."
The family's loss "reintroduces you to your priorities," Bowden said. "Which for me are my Christian faith, my family and my profession. My Christian faith helps me understand the most important thing."

Bowden knows he can't minimalize his position. His team is followed by thousands of fans and generates millions of dollars for the school. This week, Bowden says he'll do the best he can to keep the family grief on one side and football preparations on other.

"My faith helps me compartmentalize," he said.
Published in Tallahassee Democrat on Sept. 8, 2004
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