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Bowden ball:

Bobby and the boys hold football camp at Troy State

By KEVIN PEARCEY

Sports Editor

Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden has always associated Troy, Alabama with Fats Dominoe.

The 72-year-old told the story about how in 1955, his first year as head coach of the South Georgia College Tigers, he was in Troy preparing for a game against the Trojans.

"I’m not even sure where we stayed at, probably in one of their dorms," Bowden said. "But we went and ate in their cafeteria and they had a record player. It was playing Fats Dominoe and it was the first time I had ever heard ‘Blueberry Hill’. So now every time I hear that song I think of Troy."

As chance would have it, Bowden heard the song again on Monday. He was driving to Troy State to observe a session of the Bowden Quarterback and Receivers Camp, which ends today.

"It came on the radio and I was like ‘God, 48 years ago and there’s that song again, that same old song.’"

The twice-told winner of national titles (1993, 1999), Bowden, himself, appears to be the hit song that just won’t disappear. His Seminoles’ teams have finished in the Top Five 14 times in a row and he’s compiled a 250-59-4 record in 26 seasons as head coach. Because of Bowden, it’s become vogue to vote the Seminoles in at No. 1 when the preseason polls are released during the summer

And Bowden still seems as personable as ever. On Tuesday, he shook hands, signed autographs and stopped his golf cart so a young man could take his picture.

"Did you get it or do you need me to stay still for another one?" He asked.

The camp, he and his sons have been directing for 15 years and started as a "family get-together," said Bowden.

A number of high-profile college quarterbacks have passed through the Bowden camp, including Alabama’s Jay Barker, Texas’ Major Applewhite and Kentucky’s Eric Couch. The camp has been held at Troy State for three years and all of Bowden’s sons meet their father here each July. It started because of a suggestion from Bowden’s wife, Ann.

"She said ‘ya’ll should should hold a camp so ya’ll can all be together,’" Bowden recalled. "Because when you’re coaching, you know, everybody’s gone in different directions and you just can’t get together that much."

Terry, the ABC college football analyst and much-maligned former Auburn head coach, teams up with his brothers Tommy, Jeff and brother-in-law Jack Hines to coordinate the camp. Tommy Bowden is the head coach at Clemson and has the unenviable task of trying to find a way to beat his father each season, since both play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Maybe because they’re in earshot of their father,( Bowden’s a popular speaker in churches across the south during the offseason), the worse thing that comes out of one of the Bowden boy’s mouths is ‘knucklehead.’

"How many times are you going to be a knucklehead?" Tommy questioned a receiver when he blew an assignment. "Look. You just invented a new route."

Bowden seemed content to relax in his golf cart and allow his sons to take control of the camp.

He does watch out for the occasional blue-chipper.

"There’s no doubt this can help in recruiting," he said. "It gives us a chance to observe the guys and spot the ones that have potential. A lot of times you spot them when they’re young and then they come back next year. I’d say nearly half of these guys are returnees. There’s a lot of kids that come out of here."

This is the third season the Bowdens have come to Troy. It was started in Florida and then jumped to Samford, where Terry was coaching at the time. Then Bowden and the rest followed Terry to Auburn.

"But now he’s living in Orlando and we’re not going down there," Bowden joked. "Troy’s pretty well centrally located. This is a wonderful place to hold a camp. They let us use their trainers and Coach (Larry) Blakeney has been real cordial with us."

Blakeney and the Trojans are preparing for their second year of Division I-A football.

Bowden knows what that feels like.

He took the job with FSU in 1976 and was forced to take his teams on the road time and time again.

"That’s what you have to go through," he said. "We played Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan…and none of them would come to Tallahassee. That’s the way we got started."

Does Bowden see a potential Florida State-Troy State match-up in the future?

"Will it happen down the road? I wouldn’t be surprised," he said. "Especially if Troy keeps coming like it’s coming…playing these big schools and beating some of them. In fact, it nearly happened a few years ago when Auburn dropped us. We had two open dates and we couldn’t fill them. We were talking to Troy State, but they were I-AA at the time and we were looking for a I-A school. I think we ended up with UAB and Louisville."