TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It's been nearly four years since Bobby Bowden coached his final game at Florida State, but he'll be welcomed back to Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday in grand fashion.
Nearly 400 former players are expected to attend Saturday's game against NC State as Bowden attends his first football game at Florida State since he was ousted as head coach following the 2009 season. Just as he did in his final game at the Gator Bowl that season, he'll be tasked with planting the famous spear at midfield before kickoff, a longtime tradition at Florida State usually reserved for the team's mascot, Osceola.
"It's going to be awesome," said linebacker Christian Jones, whose father and brother both played for Bowden. "He built this team up, so it'll be awesome seeing him on the field."
After an acrimonious end to his 35-year tenure at Florida State, Bowden, the winningest coach in Football Bowl Subdivision history, worked to avoid lingering around the program. After his successor, Jimbo Fisher, led the Seminoles to its first ACC title since Bowden's retirement last year, Bowden finally accepted an invitation to return for a game.
"There's no nerves," Bowden said. "I'm excited about it, getting to see a lot of people."
Bowden will also attend Florida State's Nov. 16 game against Syracuse when the 1993 national championship team will be honored.
Only five players remain on FSU's roster from Bowden's final season, but several seniors were recruited under his watch and said they're eager to witness the legendary coach's return.
"I want to show him the pride we still have for this program, just to honor him," linebacker Telvin Smith said. "I'm going to dedicate this game to him and all those veteran players who are coming back just to show them we're trying to hold up what you all started."