Like Youngstown, Ohio, was for the sport on a whole as recently as a decade ago, Birmingham, Ala., can be considered the cradle of coaches for Florida State’s football program. That’s where you’ll find Samford University, home to the FCS Bulldogs.
But more than being just the other team in Birmingham along with UAB, Samford’s the alma mater to former Florida State coaches Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Bowden — the leaders responsible for all three of FSU’s national titles and the program’s coaches for 42 years.
Bowden didn’t start his playing career at Samford, but he finished it there.
The legendary coach started his college career with Alabama, his boyhood team. But then Bowden got married and decided to go home to Birmingham, maybe setting him on a path that led him to pass twice on becoming Alabama’s coach.
But Bowden was pretty good in his day both as a player and in his short stint as a coach. He earned All-America honors in 1952 as a QB, and was 31-6 as a coach over a four-year stretch, posting the highest winning percentage in school history.
The school wasn’t even called Samford when he played there. It was Howard College, and the program was transitioning back to scholarship football after an 18-year absence when the school fielded a team without it.
Now, Bowden’s in Samford’s Hall of Fame and has his own statue there:
The Bobby Bowden Statue at Seibert Stadium...Samford University...Homewood, AL pic.twitter.com/6vDz665WQd— DUCKADEE (@joedgolf) September 21, 2013
Fisher’s also in Samford’s Hall of Fame, and the Seminole-Bulldog connection runs even deeper than that.
In the late 1980s, Fisher had transferred to Salem college after a semester at Clemson. His move to Samford for his senior season in 1987 brought him to his third school. There, he threw for 2,394 yards en route to being named Division III’s player of the year. Fisher became the second QB to earn All-American honors at Samford, after Bowden:
Bowden’s son, Terry, took Samford to the FCS playoffs in 1991 , the program’s third year at that level. It’s still the deepest run the team has ever made, and Jimbo Fisher was the offensive coordinator on Terry’s staff that season after spending three seasons as a graduate assistant.
“One of the best choices I ever made was the day I transferred to Samford,” Fisher said during his induction speech in February as part of the school’s second Hall of Fame class. “Samford has been so intertwined in my life so much, in my athletic life, my coaching life.”
Fisher would go onto succeed Bowden at Florida State in 2010 after spending a few years as his coach in waiting.
And in his first game as head coach, Fisher’s Seminoles welcomed the Samford Bulldogs to Tallahassee. Fisher’s gone, but in the second game of the post-Fisher era, the Bulldogs will return to Doak Campbell Stadium.